Cyberattacks in Africa comparable to other parts of the globe, says Kaspersky

With digital transformation a top priority on the corporate agenda as companies identify new ways to grow their business, cyber attackers and opportunist cybercriminals remain very active. And although Africa is not necessarily considered a focus area for the more sophisticated types of cybercriminal activity such as targeted attacks or advanced persistent threats (APTs), the continent is certainly not immune to these or other types of cyber risks, warn Kaspersky researchers.

When looking at the general cyberthreat landscape as it impacts consumers and businesses, Kaspersky research shows that in 2020, worldwide, approximately 10% of computers experienced at least one malware attack. Interestingly, in some African countries, including South Africa, the figure was only slightly under the global 10% average, making the African region comparable to that of North America or Europe in terms of cyberattacks. On some parts of the continent, in countries like Liberia Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco as examples, Kaspersky has seen a slightly higher rate, while other parts show a lower rate – a 5% or 6% average. For the first quarter of 2021, the figures are only slightly lower than 10%, both in relative and absolute terms.

Says David Emm, Principal Security Researcher at Kaspersky; “Generally speaking, and based on our research, Africa has the same hit rate as we would see for other parts of the globe when it comes to cyberattacks and activity. This only emphasises that the cyber threat landscape truly does incorporate the whole globe where no continent or country is free of this growing danger and where all consumers, businesses and industries alike need to pay attention to effective cybersecurity measures – and especially during the current pandemic and resultant turbulent times.”

In South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria, Kaspersky’s research has identified the top malware families as ransomware, financial/banking trojans, and crypto-miner malware. When comparing Q1 2021 with Q2 2021, Kaspersky saw a 24% increase in ransomware in Q2 2021 in South Africa, as well as an increase of 14% in crypto-miner malware. In Kenya and Nigeria, Kaspersky saw a large increase in financial/banking trojans in Q2 2021 when compared to the figures for Q1 2021 – a 59% increase in Kenya and a 32% increase in Nigeria.

While on a technical level, not much has changed when it comes to cyberattacks, what is different is that the pandemic presents a persistent topic in which the world has a vested interest in. So, unlike the Olympics or Valentine’s Day which are limited in terms of a timeline, the pandemic offers a wealth of opportunities for cybercriminals to use malware to attack. Everything from the daily numbers and lockdown restrictions to vaccinations, hackers are leveraging on every aspect of the current situation to compromise systems.

“While the bulk of attacks are still speculative and randomly targeting individuals and businesses, there is a shift happening with the increase of APTs and more strategically targeted based attacks. These use continuous, clandestine, and sophisticated hacking techniques to gain access to a system and remain inside for a prolonged period, with potentially destructive consequences. Because of the time and effort required to perpetrate such an attack, these are often levelled at high value targets, such as nation states and large businesses,” adds Emm.

Furthermore, another concern is that as the cyberthreat landscape evolves, the nature of malware is changing.

Continues Emm; “Take ransomware as an example. In the beginning, it was very random targeting as many people as possible hoping for a relatively small amount of money paid in ransom. During the past five years, there has been a shift with a decline in the number of ransomware families being developed as well as an overall global decline in attacks. However, attackers are now focusing on specific companies and individuals where they can get the maximum benefit. The new approach of ransomware is to expose data, negatively impacting the reputation of a company. To this effect, financial crime has become more sophisticated and organised.”

Financial institutions a top targeted industry

The financial services sector remains a top targeted industry in Africa when it comes to cybercriminal activity and such cyberthreats – not surprising when one considers the digital first approach this sector continues to take, driven by the needs and expectations of its customers.

“It is relatively easy for a hacker to target an individual and capture passcodes, one-time passwords, and install malware on their computers to get financial information. Increasingly, this is expanding to financial institutions given the sheer number of new entrants in the market emerging. For hackers, online or cyber fraud offers direct monetisation of an attack and gives them access to money as quickly as possible,” adds Emm.

Financial based malware and cyberattacks are also becoming more targeted, complicated, and difficult to prevent, and with digital transformation progressing at a rapid rate within such a sector, there is no shortage of attack surfaces for cybercriminals to exploit.

“In a world where cybercrime remains rife and is only fuelled by aspects like the pandemic, there is never a moment one should not consider the implications of a cyberattack, especially as the cyberthreat landscape evolves and become even more targeted and sophisticated than it was a mere few years ago. Cybercrime is a business. This means that consumers and companies alike must remain vigilant against an increasing attack surface. Not only does this entail a more focused cyber training approach for staff within an organisation, but also using the latest technologies that feature artificial intelligence and machine learning for accurate and proactive protection and prevention in real-time,” concludes Emm.

www.kaspersky.com

Meet Stephan Eyeson, Founder & CEO of Survey54

British-Ghanaian entrepreneur, Stephan Eyeson, is current CEO and Founder of pan-African consumer intelligence gathering firm, Survey54.

Could you tell us about your company?

Survey54 was launched in 2019 and is a market research outfit that uses AI-powered insights to collect data and interpret consumer habits. What we do is help companies to understand African consumer tendencies and how this can affect their marketing plans and overall bottom line. We are operating right now mostly out of the UK and South Africa but our methods are fitted to global participation. As the company name implies, we are active in all 54 countries of Africa, but our highest areas of data insights are Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and Ghana.

To which industries do you render your services?

The sectors that have so far benefited from our intelligence are FMCGs, Fintech, Healthcare and Food & Retail. Our clients tend to be international companies operating or making an entry into the African economy, but local organizations are very much in play as well.

How has the market responded to your services?

Positively, especially in South Africa. The current global health crisis we face has produced one silver lining – there’s an unprecedented surge in digitization in Africa. The need to have strong internet at home has gone from luxury to basic necessity. Home orders have shot up and digital interaction has generated more information on consumer behaviors than ever before. We have found this to be a positive trend and our feedback has reflected as much.

In what direction will the company be going Q2 2021?

We aim to expand our offering to purely consumer intelligence and will target expansion in Egypt, Mozambique and Rwanda. We are also working to partner with fintech companies to understand buying patterns and consumer habits within African consumers.

What makes your approach to consumer insights different from that of other existing firms?

We use various mobile and AI-backed technology to automate the consumer research problem. We also leverage different channels such as our mobile app, USSD, Voice and SMS to reach respondents in rural areas and those within cities. We are able to get respondents within minutes as we have a large database of participants across four major countries. We are purely focused on Africa which means we have templates that are tailored towards each country.

The AfCFTA took effect January this year. As your services span all 54 countries of Africa, how does this development impact your operations?

AfCFTA is very exciting for us. We plan to open up our research on consumers which will allow companies to make decisions on which countries they can buy and sell in based on demand. It’s safe to believe that this will be instrumental in companies making the right decisions.

What are the ambitions of Survey54 as a company?

Our goal long term is to be the largest holder of consumer insight on the continent. We’d also like to see a situation where we can make available our intelligence to SMEs as well as startups in Africa. At the moment we mostly work with large organizations that already recognize the need for consumer understanding, but the fact is that a lot of African startups fail because they go blindly into the market. This does not need to be the case.

What is the latest news from the company?

We are currently working on trackers that allow companies to understand and track real-time what Africans are consuming by the day as well as their eating habits. We are confident we’ll see this come into shape by year end.

If you are a company and in need of consumer intelligence data, feel free to directly contact
Stephan Eyeson

www.survey54.com