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Companies report increase in data breaches during the pandemic

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Hacking activities against corporations more than doubled by some measures in the last six months as digital thieves took advantage of security weakened by pandemic work-from-home policies, researchers said.

Data communications company Liquid Telecom said yesterday that companies are reporting increased instances of pony-trekking mainly through password compromises due to the unprecedented changes in the way firms and their employees are currently forced to do business.

The IT and Financial Decision Makers views on Cybersecurity in South Africa and Kenya report published on September 4 noted that ransomware attacks by various companies jumped significantly from March as the country curbed movement to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“In Kenya, password compromises and insider threats were the biggest cyber threats. Just over half of the businesses surveyed have experienced a Cybersecurity threat during the Covid-19 pandemic, with 46 per cent saying yes in South Africa and 75 per cent in Kenya,” reads the report, which also noted that phishing or social engineering attacks and insider threats were also on the rise.

Financial institutions like commercial banks and credit unions as well as government institutions were the most vulnerable according to the report released having suffered the most in the hands of faceless criminals.

An estimated 40 Kenyan companies and 69 South African companies who took part in the survey, confirmed financial loss, loss of customers, business closure and loss of sales among other damages as the ensuing impact cyber-attacks had on their operations.

Other business concerns were loss of confidential company or personal information, hacking of company databases, safety and protection of data as well as leaking of confidential client, employee and company information.

“The biggest risks to a business in the case of cybersecurity breach are illegal access to confidential info

The report is now recommending increased vigilance as well as amplified investment in the companies’ budgets if the war on cyber security is to be won.

“And while many employees across the continent are returning to work, organizations are embracing a hybrid model of digital and onsite working. As such there are increasing concerns over the security of data, shadow IT and the financial implications of a security breach information and loss of data,” noted the report,” said David Behr, Group Chief Digital Officer, Liquid Telecom.

The survey confirms existing fears by several companies which continue to lose billions of shillings in cyber-attacks that involve fake news, ransomware, cyber pyramid schemes and cyber bullying among others.

In 2017 for instance, Kenya’s top leading companies Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and mobile operator Safaricom reported suspicions of systems hacking with the former losing Sh 4billion from a hack into its systems.

During the same period, Uganda’s Makerere University’s systems were hacked in what saw 50 students deleted from the 2017 graduation list, an attack that also impacted the country’s Finance ministry’s website as well as the country’s commercial banks, following an alert from its national intelligence service.

Data released by the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) in April this year further showed that Kenyan organizations had been hit by about 37.1 million cyber threats in the last quarter of 2019 compared to the previous quarter, which was a 47.3 percent increase.

It is estimated that Kenya loses nearly $300 million to cyber-attacks – while a report by Kenya-based consulting firm Serianu says the country lost nearly Sh30 billion to cyber-attacks in 2018.

Indeed, last year the country passed The Computer and Cybercrimes Bill 2017 , touted as a major improvement from the two cybercrime Bills previously published by Kenya’s Senate and the National Assembly – with the Bill expected to tame the vice.

In its absence, experts felt cyber criminals were ‘getting away with murder’ owing to the previous laws that were deemed soft, and which had accelerated woeful crime statistics in the country believed to be even higher than the reported figures.

Also thought to add to the woes in the fight against cyber-attacks on businesses, is the failure by most companies to allot adequate resources in containing the growing trend, which according to findings by Serianu Africa Cyber Security Report 2017 jumped from Sh8.5billion in 2016.

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