The Smartphone Device Revolution

Mobile devices, particularly smart devices, are becoming commonplace in modern culture. Smart devices have had an impressive trajectory starting at grassroots with a monochrome LCD display, one hour battery life, a phone jack adapter and limited functionality including an address book, emails, faxes and predictive typing; evolving to today’s smart devices which boast artificial intelligence assistants, global positioning system technology, large memory capability, high-definition cameras, internet access, 24 hour battery-life and the ability to run several applications at a time[1].   As mobile devices have increased their capabilities, smart device users have expanded their dependence, reliance and use of smart devices for most all daily tasks; as such, paralleling the increased computing power of smart devices is the personal information that the smart devices are capable of storing whether overtly (passcodes and preferences) or covertly (messages and location).  In addition to the personal information stored on smart devices, in an attempt to mirror the increasing use of mobile devices, and likely to reduce company overheads, financial institutions are moving to online, mobile service offerings; developing mobile applications and refining webpage user interfaces for better user experiences – financial institutions often encouraging users to download financial institution applications to their smart devices for greater banking independence.

There is a surfeit of information stored on smart devices that makes smart devices a target for malicious exploitation.  In South Africa, as of January 2018, 35% of the South African population used their smart devices for internet banking and 42% of the South African population used a smart device for location services and 18% of the South African population using a smart device in order to make an online purchase.  Online privacy is also important to South Africans as a 2018 study by Hootsuite identified key attitudes toward technology amongst South Africans, reporting that 78% of South Africans felt data protection and privacy were very important and 45% of South Africans reporting that they deleted their cookie history in order to protect their privacy[2].

The richness of information on smart devices makes smart devices an appealing target for persons who wish to hack into unsuspecting user accounts in order to capture screenshot-data of passwords to sensitive applications and hijack personal data for malicious extortion and syphoning smartphone user capital [3].    In 2018, South Africa was identified as the third most vulnerable country for cybercrimes[4] accounting for 55% of the gross losses in the banking industry[5]. Further, a 2018 article released information from a 2016 study conducted by Norton that showed that 9 million South Africans were victims of Cyber Crime in 2016[6].   The general naivety surrounding the amount of personal data stored on smart devices as well as means used by hackers to obtain such information, makes smart device users soft targets for smart device-related cyber-crime.

Smart Phone Market

The cellphone market in South Africa has a reported year-on-year growth of 7.2%[7] and as at February 2019, had a market value of below R35 billion[8]; the number of South Africans using smartphones is expected to increase to 26.3 million in the next four years[9].  Smartphones seem to have 60% market share in South Africa with bottom-of-the-range smartphones accounting for 61%[10] of smartphone unit sales.  It is estimated that 20-22 million South Africans use smartphones.  Other sources indicate that 41.6% of the South African population have smartphones; an estimate of 23 million smartphone users in the South African market[11] and yet other sources indicate that 60% of the South African population own a smartphone[12].  Varying estimates pertaining to the number of smartphone users in South Africa makes it difficult to determine a true quantitative measure of the South African smartphone penetration; however, a conservative lower estimate of 20 million smartphones is thought to reflect the smartphone market penetration in South Africa.

Third-party research seems to indicate there are forty smartphone brands with market share in South Africa; thirty of which offer entry-level smartphones.  Shipping information suggests that the most popular smartphone brands used by South Africans are Samsung followed by Mobicel and Huawei[13].  However, mobile vendor market share seems to indicate that Samsung, Huawei and Apple have a predominant market share in the South African market.  Consistent with mobile vendor data,  the South African Mobile Report 2017 surveyed over 4,900 persons and found that 40% of surveyed users owned Samsung devices, 10% owned Huawei devices, 9% owned Apple devices, 6% owned either a Nokia or Blackberry device, 3% owned a Sony device and 2% owned an LG device[14] (see image below)[15].

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