Many countries in Africa are considered developing nations. As a result, Internet access on the continent is not always a given. But that’s changing — and it’s changing quickly. Africans are just as eager to get online as the rest of the world.

While there has been slow infrastructural development in this regard, African countries are beginning to catch up with more developed countries. This begs the question, “Are people in Africa neglecting online safety?”

It’s a question with no easy answers. This is because there hasn’t been much research in this regard. Recently, Google commissioned a study to test the awareness of online safety among Internet users in South Africa.

Google chose South Africa for the study because it has the best economy on the continent and fairly widespread Internet access. The results were sobering. The researchers concluded that South Africans are not protecting themselves online well enough.

The Phishers are out in full force

According to the results, 53% of participants had received phishing emails. That’s hardly surprising – phishing emails are a favorite amongst cybercriminals. This then leads us to wonder how the participants responded to those emails.

24% of respondents fell for a scam

The high percentage of participants who received phishing emails wouldn’t raise many eyebrows. What is of concern, however, is that 24% of the respondents admitted to paying for phantom products or services. It would appear that while South Africans can identify some phishing emails, they’re not as good at differentiating between a scam and a legitimate offer.

Social Media and Email are vulnerable

According to 28% of the respondents, someone had gained unauthorized access to either their email or social media accounts. This might not seem like a big deal if you don’t share much personal information on Facebook.

Until you take into consideration the company’s somewhat relaxed attitude toward online privacy. In 2018, Facebook admitted to collecting call and text information from users who have Android devices. Then, of course, the Cambridge Analytica scandal followed in which a simple quiz on the platform exposed the data of 50 million users.

You’d be surprised at how much personal information is gathered on social media sites. Learn more about that and what they use the data for by checking out the infographic below.

Internet security is not properly understood

It would appear that Internet users in South Africa have a patchy knowledge of good Internet security. Respondents were mostly aware that they needed to keep their financial information safe but fell short in other areas where security is concerned.

Here are some of the mistakes that came up

Want to see if you’re guilty of making some of the same gaffes? Let’s have a look.

  • Do you use the same password for all or many of your online accounts? If so, then you’re like 43% of South Africans.
  • Have you enabled two-step verification for your online accounts? If so, you’re ahead of the game. Almost two-thirds of South Africans failed to enable this simple security feature.
  • Have you set up a recovery email address or phone number so that you can reset your online accounts if you’re locked out? Only 11% of the respondents had.

What does all this mean?

The conclusion is that South Africans were generally aware of the importance of Internet security but didn’t bother to take additional steps to protect themselves completely. Perhaps, there’s an attitude of “It can’t happen to me” or an issue of convenience. But if the South African study is anything to go by, users in Africa could be particularly vulnerable to cybercriminals.

Look at the Infographic below:

Africans are generally aware of the importance of internet security but have not bothered to take additional steps to protect themselves completely.


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