Experts who participated at the Kaspersky Lab’s annual Cyber Security Weekend in Cape Town, South Africa, have raised the alarm over the many cyber risks associated with SIM swap fraud wave in Africa and the wider region.
A SIM swap fraud happens when someone convinces your carrier to switch your phone number over to a SIM card that a criminal possesses.
In some cases, there are carrier’s employees working together with criminals. By diverting your incoming SMS messages, scammers can easily complete the text-based two-factor authentication checks that protect your most sensitive accounts in financial services, social networks, webmail services and instant messengers.
Many African countries are suited to mobile payment methods. At the end of 2017, there were 135 live mobile money services across the Sub-Saharan African region, with 122 million active accounts.
While payment methods through mobiles offer a convenience that is hard to debate, Kaspersky Lab research shows that mobile payments and the banking system are suffering a wave of attack – mostly powered by SIM swap fraud – and people are losing their money as a result.
“This type of attack is used to not only steal credentials and capture one-time passwords (OTPs) sent via an SMS, but also to cause financial damage to victims, resetting the accounts on financial services, allowing to the fraudsters access to currency accounts not only in banks but also in fintechs and credit unions.
“Fraudsters are also using it as way to steal money using WhatsApp, loading the messages in a new phone, contacting the victim’s contacts asking for money, simulating an emergency situation.
“Despite financial inclusion services prospering, the flip side to this is that it opens up a world of opportunities to cybercriminals and fraudsters who are using the convenience a mobile phone offers to exploit and poke holes in a two-factor authentication processes. Frauds using SIM swap are becoming common in Africa and Middle East, affecting countries like South Africa, Turkey and UAE. Countries like Mozambique have experienced this firsthand.”