"I never subscribed for that, now all my data is gone!" It's a common call centre complaint, and also the basis of a highlight of the AfricaCom 20/20 track: The keynote address by Dimitris Maniatis, head of Secure-D at Upstream, who revealed the scary reality of smartphone data fraud.
Cybersecurity has long been seen as the Achilles heel of digital transformation, and Maniatis fast painted a picture of the darker side of the web, with a tightened focus for mobile operators.
You just need to turn to social media for an idea of how hidden malware depletes subscribers’ data and triggers further fraudulent charges.
LONDON - AfricaCom 20/20 will launch at midday on Tuesday, 13 November 2018. This year's line-up has an agenda to raise robust debate around some of the most pressing issues facing Africa's entry into the 4th Industrial Revolution...
2 Oct 2018
Maniatis said the situation is only set to get worse, with smartphone adoption in Africa as well as the popularity of mobile transactions ever-growing. Unfortunately, Upstream data shows that almost 85% of those mobile transactions on the continent are fraudulent.
In fact, much of carrier billing is driven by malware and further incentivised by ad fraud, which impacts on end consumer.
You see the charges on your device, then you complain online, as most of those R2/day subscription charges are for something you didn’t actively sign up for. The subscriber doesn’t know how it happened, but the operator is usually in the dark, too.
Maniatis says the answer is mobile malware
It’s not going anywhere either, as it’s incentivised by mobile ad spend. Nulltx
confirms that Google went so far as to delist over 700,000 fraudulent apps from their Play store last year.
16 hours of work = 1Gb of data?
Emerging market consumers are still being hit the hardest. Maniatis explained, a data point is the hours of work needed to be done on minimal wage by the average consumer to earn 1GB data. In SA it is close to 16 hours, whereas it’s usually just two to three hours in the US. #Datafeesmustfall
The past two years have seen the Competition Commission undertake a number of market inquiries involving the retail, healthcare and public passenger transport markets. However, few market inquiries have captured the attention of South African consumers more than the inquiry into the high costs of data...
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There are still thousands of malicious applications to be wary of out there, and others that subscribe you to further digital services in the background, but Maniatis pointed out that the malware isn’t always something you were tricked into downloading by an app – malware-infected devices
are also causing data disappearance.
Maniatis says the malware sometimes sits preinstalled on your handset, ready to deplete data before you’ve even subscribed.
The mobile malware triple threat
You may see it as an idle app, but it’s secretly downloading ad campaign content, which counts as ad fraud. This makes it a triple threat:
Your personal info
can be leaked to servers outside the country, while depleting your data allowance
and also adding fraudulent charges
The customer gets angry and contacts their mobile data provider. If they can’t track the disappearing data, this leads to higher customer churn as they’re seen as ‘stealing data’, even though the third-party software is usually the culprit.
The 21st edition of AfricaCom kicks off today, 13 November 2018, in Cape Town and is shaping up to be an impressive event...
13 Nov 2018
See above for more on what to expect from AfricaCom 2018, and follow the latest updates on KNectAfrica
and the #AfricaCom2018