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.”
No respite in an evolving cybercrime landscape
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.
Softcom Announces Day X, The Launch of Intuitive Solutions For Businesses
Softcom has announced the launch of new intuitive solutions and initiatives the company has built to accelerate inclusion and growth for Africans which will be happening on Day X: July 29, 2021.
The company states that it has thoroughly examined the state of society and what sustainable growth looks like for people and businesses and has designed products and platforms focusing on unlocking the inherent potential that exists in every individual.
Day X will expose us to an ecosystem of tools that will empower business owners to sell better, sell more, identify people, control their money and make better decisions. Initiatives and platforms have also been designed with the entrepreneur to enable ambitious and early-stage businesses to position themselves for rapid growth.
Softcom also states that its crucial strategy is to make these human-centered solutions accessible to all entrepreneurs who are dreamers and those who have begun to take action. This ability to deliver value and innovation of active or passive entrepreneurs within any society will ultimately contribute to its people and businesses’ collective growth and advancement.
In his newly released letter to the public, Yomi Adedeji, CEO of Softcom X, wrote; ”Our ultimate goal is to create an open world with equitable access to intuitive solutions that address the most basic human needs and by doing so enable societal development, business growth and human prosperity.”
Day X will provide answers to questions entrepreneurs ask, no matter the size of their ambition and help them commence their journey of leveraging these human-centered tools to drive transformational growth for themselves and society at large.
Day X will take place virtually. To find out more about Softcom and register for Day X, visit here
Softcom is a 14-year-old company with experience in innovation, technology solutions for businesses and enabling access at scale.
FG To Lift Suspension On Twitter Once It Registers With NBC and CAC
The Nigerian government will lift the suspension of Twitter, the microblogging platform once the digital social media app registers with the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
According to an affidavit deposed to by the office of the Attorney General of the Federation in response to a suit filed by a human rights lawyer, the government said Twitter would not have been suspended if it complied with Nigeria’s laws.
The affidavit deposed by Ilop Lawrence on behalf of the Federal Government and the AGF, it was stated that the suspension of Twitter was not an abuse of human rights because Nigerians were still using Twitter despite the suspension.
The government told the court that the Twitter suspension would be lifted once the platform registers with the NBC and the Corporate Affairs Commission.
The government had on June 4, 2021, suspended Twitter barely two days after the social media platform censored a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Subsequently, the AGF, Abubakar Malami threatened to prosecute Nigerians still using the platform while NBC ordered all radio and television stations to stop using Twitter or picking content from the platform.
Human Rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, subsequently sued the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, Malami, and the Federal Government for suspending the social media platform.
In the fundamental human rights suit marked FHC/L/CS/542/2021, Effiong is seeking nine reliefs, including an order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondents from further suspending, deactivating, or banning the operation and accessibility of Twitter or any other social media service in Nigeria because the act was in violation of his rights.
Effiong asked the court to declare as illegal the threat of criminal prosecution by Malami and Lai Mohammed against Nigerians who ‘violate’ the suspension or ban of Twitter, despite the absence of any written law.
But in its response to the originating motion, the government said Nigerians are still using the microblogging platform despite the suspension placed on the app.
“The applicant (Effiong) and the class he seeks to represent can still operate those Twitter accounts from anywhere in the world and even from Nigeria.
“Nigerians are still tweeting, even at this moment as the ban on Twitter is not aimed at intimidating Nigerians or an infringement on the rights of Nigerians to express their opinion.
“The respondents (Federal Government and AGF) have never stopped the applicant (Effiong) and the class of persons he seeks to represent from voicing their opinions to access government information and offer criticism where necessary,” the government said in the affidavit.
The government told the court that Nigerians are still free to use other platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, Tiktok and others.
The Federal Government also denied knowledge of Twitter censoring Buhari’s tweet on the Biafra civil which offended many Nigerians.
It said Twitter had made its platform accessible to elements like Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra; and had supported the #EndSARS protests of October 2020 which was later hijacked by hoodlums.
Health Tech Startup 54gene Launches Trust to Amplify Africa’s Capacity in Scientific Research
54gene, the health technology company centered on advancing the field of African genomics to unlock scientific discoveries as well as improve diagnostic and treatment outcomes within Africa and the global community, is creating a trust which it will use to invest up to 5 percent of future proceeds from the company’s commercial drug discovery program.
The creation of the trust is part of its Commitment to Africa in establishing a more sustainable and thriving cyclical ecosystem across Africa’s scientific development space, as well as ensuring better quality healthcare delivery for the communities in which the company operates.
54gene is focused on creating a pipeline of novel drugs for global populations, based on insights drawn from the healthcare and research ecosystem in Africa and wants to ensure that the 1.5 billion people in Africa benefit from its endeavors.
While ensuring Ethical, Legal, Social Implication (ELSI) guidelines are rigorously followed, 54gene is focused on advancing better health outcomes for global populations through precision medicine and addressing the unmet need for novel therapeutics in healthcare.
The company has created a proprietary platform that powers drug discovery through its substantial bio- and data-repository of deeply phenotyped and diverse datasets. It has the potential to power understanding across multiple disease areas such as cancers, neurodegenerative diseases, sickle cell, autoimmune and rare diseases, and infectious diseases.
The new trust has been designed to enable a consistent provision of better diagnostics and medicines for Africans as well as amplifying capacity building within the scientific research space across Africa.
“The biggest challenge in drug discovery in Africa is adequate infrastructure and the extensive need for capacity building.
“As we work on delivering on our promise of precision medicine for Africans and the global population, we are striving to ensure that our work involves current African scientists and leaders in the field as well as supports the creation of more skilled Africans in science and additional jobs across the continent.
“This initiative is designed to continue fostering partnerships within the African scientific body, to reflect the leadership of Africans in global drug discovery research, and to generate sustainable healthcare delivery systems that will ultimately benefit African communities participating in the scientific work that advances better outcomes for all.
It is the inclusion of African talent that will make our drug discovery work successful in bridging the disparity gap within genomics data. Africa has the ability to contribute far beyond the 1 percent in global drug discovery that is currently taking place within the continent, and we believe 54gene will help accelerate those contributions.“
The 54gene trust will be managed by an advisory committee. As the company’s commercial operations grow, the demonstrated Commitment to Africa and creation of the trust will ensure an African footprint and sustainable growth in global drug discovery across the continent.
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