Small and medium-sized enterprises, Saccos and start-ups are now becoming the new targets for cyber criminals due to their low level of investment in cyber security, a study by Russian cybersecurity firm, Kaspersky, reveals.
According to the firm, while these businesses have invested in new technologies to continue reaching their markets amidst disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, they are yet to invest in mechanisms to protect themselves from common cyber threats such as malware attacks, data breaches, ransomware, Trojans and phishing.
According to reports, while 83 percent of firms have completely re-thought their technology systems to accommodate new ways of working during the pandemic, 58 percent of these organisations are not prepared for a malware attack.
“Kenya experienced 32.8 million cyber-attacks within the first half of 2021, the second highest cyberattacks in Africa after Nigeria which recorded 61.7 million attacks, with a big number of these targeting SMEs in both countries,” said Amin Hasbini, Kaspersky Head of Research Centre, Middle East, Turkey and Africa.
Hasbini says as people and companies continue to rely more on technology, the level of ransomware development and therefore the number of threats is increasing, leaving many companies at risk of losing critical data or even loads of cash.
Indeed, a recent report by the Central Bank of Kenya showed that SMEs lost Sh106 million in 17 months to March 2021, with attackers targeting weak controls of the systems given minimal verification of members’ identity as many worked remotely as part of Covid-19 preventive measures.
Going by Kaspersky’s report, the 32.8 million attacks in Kenya represented a 15.9 percent increase from what was recorded within the same period last year, while the number of attacks in Nigeria jumped up by 24.6 percent from what was recorded within the same period last year.
At 31.5 million attacks, South Africa recorded the third highest number of cyber-attacks in Africa, which was a 16.6 percent increase from what was recorded within the same period last year.
According to the cybersecurity firm, these findings also reveal that Africa is becoming the new target for cyber criminals, with cyber gangs targeting governments and telecommunications sector, education, healthcare, finance, and more recently small and medium enterprises due to their poor investment in cyber security. The most dominant threat actors on the continent identified by Kaspersky include Lazarus, DeathStalker, CactusPete, and IAmTheKing.
“They (cyber criminals) are looking at non-Microsoft environments, infecting firmware, and even embarking on ‘big game hunting’ exercises focused on high-profile targets with lots of money. They are also using these as platforms to gain access to other businesses,” said Mr Hasbini.
Kaspersky categorises the threats as criminal (80 percent of attacks), targeted (19.9 percent), and advanced (0.01percent). The advanced grouping is significantly more sophisticated and features increased investment from attack groups.
“Unfortunately, both criminal and targeted threat vectors learn from the advanced category to enhance their own attack techniques. They are embracing more sophisticated methods to compromise systems and data. Ransomware has also become a significant threat vector targeting users and organisations locally,” noted Hasbini.
Hasbini also warns of 5G vulnerabilities, which could see ransomware gangs use generic malware, and more disruptive attacks to demand for money, threaten or blackmail their targets.
“This will also result in increased collaboration between these cybercriminals and cyber gangs as they look at more effective ways of achieving their objectives. Different gangs will also start specialising in tools and other methods to better advance penetration,” said Hasbini.
The Communications Authority of Kenya, through the national Computer Incident Response Team, detected 38.8 million cyber threats between April and June this year, a 38 percent increase from what was detected in the previous quarter.