Hackers constitute biggest single challenge to financial institutions in Nigeria

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Cyber mercenaries or hackers-for-hire are evolving their techniques and upgrading their toolset continue sensitive , a trend that poses a big challenge across Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa, with damaging consequences for .


Despite research showing an overall decrease in certain malware families and types in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) in the first half of 2020 (36% decrease in South Africa, 26 percent decrease in Kenya and a 2.7% decrease in Nigeria), Kaspersky, an internet security company stresses that the human cyber remains rife, where Africa is not immune the evolving techniques of Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs), as well as the possibilities of being a future target of a hacking-for-hire actor groups.

Three cyber mercenary groups have been exposed across the world this year alone. As this activity has taken place outside of Africa, Kaspersky suspect that these types of actors may have been somewhat forgotten and do not necessarily form part of cyber defence strategies.

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Nevertheless, the region may become a focus of these groups in the coming months and thus, and entities need have an understanding of these emerging threats, along with the of APTs, be prepared and take proactive steps towards effective cybersecurity.

Hackers-for-hire or cyber mercenaries do not necessarily have monetary motivations like traditional cybercrime. Instead, they steal private data to monetise it in a different way – usually for the purpose of providing advice or insights, based on the data, to share value of competitive advantage.

For example, a bank might get targeted and have its data analysed to gain an understanding of its market exposure, clients, and back-end systems. A competitor can use that to gain significant benefits. The reality is that in this evolving cyber threat landscape, no company or government institution can consider themselves safe.

In South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria, APT groups are exploiting the current around COVID-19 to steal sensitive . More sophisticated techniques have emerged that delivers malware in non-conventional ways. While overall malware attacks in South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria decreased during the first quarters of 2020, certain malware types, such as the ransomware, are proving increasingly popular for certain cybercriminals.

The same applies to financial malware in South Africa and Nigeria as examples. So, even though it decreased in these countries, certain financial malware types are gaining in popularity thanks to their unique techniques which these groups are exploiting to monetise data. This emphasises that attacks are becoming more targeted and at specific , in specific regions and for specific purposes.

The top industries under in Sub-Saharan Africa in H1 2020 include government, education, healthcare, and military. While government and military present compelling – and obvious – targets, education and healthcare are often used as pivot points to gain access to other institutions. Sometimes, an entity is a victim while other times it is the target.

The top three threat actors in these regions in this regard are TransparentTribe, Oilrig, and MuddyWater.

“The remainder of the year will likely see APT groups and hacking-for-hire threat actors increase in prominence across the globe. Africa will continue to see more sophisticated APTs emerge and we also suspect that the hacking-for-hire actor type could target in Africa in the future,” says Maher Yamout, senior security researcher, Global Research & Analysis at Kaspersky.

Yamout also said they anticipate that cybercriminals will increase targeted ransomware deployment using different ways. These can range from trojanised cracked software to exploitation across the supply chain of the targeted industry. Data breaches will certainly become more commonplace especially as people will continue to work remotely for the foreseeable future while exposing their systems to the Internet without adequate protection.”

While prevention is ideal, detection is a must. Realistically, no organisation or government department can prevent everything. But if there is an understanding of the technology and having the ability to detect any deviation from the baseline, decision-makers will go to great strides in mitigating the risk of compromise and by understanding the threat dynamics, and can better protect themselves from evolving cyber-attacks.