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Cyber-heists: Cyber Criminals On Rampage

Digital disruption and pandemic chaos are fueling cyber threats, according to a new report which is now calling for a holistic approach from cyber security operators if businesses are to survive advance exposure.

Indeed, the latest data by the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA), shows that a whooping 38.8 million cyber threats were detected in just three months to June this year, a 37.3 percent jump from the 28.2 million cybercriminal activities identified in the first three months of 2021.

The fourth quarter sector statistics report by CA for the financial year 2020/21 for the period April to June, further attributes the worrying trend to the rise in impersonation, online fraud and abuse cases arising from increased use of the internet.

“This increase in cyber threat events detected is attributed to the significant increase in targeted attacks at Internet of Things (IoT) devices; increased activity by organized cybercrime groups,” noted the industry regulator.

The rising number of cases handled by the authority’s National KE-CIRT/CC is a clear indication that the pandemic is accelerating digital transformation and is to blame for the spike in the number of cybercriminals launching broadened attacks in this super-connected cyberspace.

It received 529 digital investigation requests compared to 298 requests in the previous period, a staggering 7.51 percent jump.

National KE-CIRT/CC, is a National Kenya Computer Incident Response Team, also Coordination Centre created by the State in 2017 to lessen cyber threats and protect businesses. It is a multi-agency collaboration framework that is also responsible for the national coordination of cyber security as well as Kenya’s national point of contact on cyber security matters.

Hacking activities targeting corporations have spiked since the pandemic hit as digital thieves took advantage of weakened security as the pandemic forced new work-from-home policies.

Since March this year, 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 threat is so critical that the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) recently cautioned Kenyan businesses to double their guard against the developing threat of cyber criminals, warning that such attacks were likely to increase in frequency.

“While digitization offers immense opportunities, emerging risks must be kept in view. Cyber security continues to evolve rapidly as more citizens enter the digital realm. Personal Data trails continue to grow exponentially as the pandemic accelerates the digitalization of the global economy.

We must therefore ensure that there are sufficient safeguards against these risks to protect our citizens,” noted the CBK in December last year.

Financial institutions like banks and credit unions as well as government institutions are deemed most vulnerable in the hands of the faceless criminals.

An estimated 40 Kenyan and 69 South African companies surveyed by Liquid Telecom report dubbed IT and Financial Decision Makers views on Cybersecurity in South Africa and Kenya for instance, published on September last year confirmed financial loss, exit of customers, business closure and declining sales among other damages as the ensuing impact cyber-attacks had on their operations.

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

The revelations by CA comes even as the country is slated to mark the global Cyber Security Awareness Month, marked yearly in October. Themed, “Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart,” this year’s celebrations will seek to empower individuals and organizations to own their role in protecting their part of cyberspace.

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