Sub-Saharan Africa saw millions of cyber attacks in 2020 and the year is not over yet.
by Cheryl Kahla
Kaspersky Security Solutions highlighted approximately 28 million cybersecurity malware attacks for Africa in a recent report, and 102 million detections of potentially unwanted programs since the beginning of August 2020.
CYBER SECURITY IN AFRICA DURING 2020
In most of these cases, users might not even know what they’ve fallen victim to a malware attack. The report also mentions “grey zone programmes” which “grow in popularity and disturb their experiences”.
“Potentially unwanted applications (PUAs) are programs that are usually not considered to be malicious by themselves. However, they are generally influencing user experience in a negative way”.
WHAT ARE POTENTIALLY UNWANTED APPLICATIONS (PUAS)
Kaspersky explains that “adware fills a user’s device with ads, [such as] aggressive monetising software propagating unrequested paid offers”. At times, various other malicious applications could be downloaded onto the device.
Researchers who calculated interim results of threat landscape activity in Africa noticed that Potentially Unwanted Application (PUA) attacks occur four times more than traditional malware.
CYBER SECURITY ATTACK IN SA, KENYA AND NIGERIA
Evaluating results over the same 7-month period in Nigeria, there were 3.8 million malware-related cyber security attacks and 16.8 million PUAs. Kenyan and South African threat landscapes have been even more intense.
The report shows that malware would attack 415 000 South African users for seven months during 2020, while approximately 736 000 potentially unwanted applications were noted.
In South Africa, there were almost 10 million malware attacks and a staggering 43 million PUA detections. Kenyan users faced even more malware attacks – around 14 million, and 41 million PUA appearances.
GREY ZONE SOFTWARE GROWING IN POPULARITY
Unfortunately, Kaspersky concludes that potentially unwanted applications are “more widespread but also more potent than traditional malware”.
Denis Parinov, Security Researcher at Kaspersky, explains that grey zone software is growing in popularity. It’s harder to detect and most grey zone software wouldn’t be considered as cyber attacks even when detected.
“The problem with them is that users are not always aware they consented to the installation of such programs on their device and that in some cases, such programs are exploited or used as a disguise for malware downloads”.
Parinov adds that this is the reason why “many security solutions, including [Kaspersky], flags such programs to make sure users are aware of its presence, influence on their device and activity”.
MALWARE PRE-INSTALLED ON DEVICES
As reported by Business Daily Africa, Upstream data indicated that “more than 19.2 million suspicious transactions were recorded from the more than 200 000 devices”.
The Upstream report showed that thousands of low-cost devices made by Tecno – a Chinese mobile phone manufacturer based in Shenzhen – shipped infected with pre-installed malware.
Geoffrey Cleaves, the head of Secure-D at Upstream said this type of malware threat “takes advantage of those most vulnerable”. Cleaves concludes:
“The fact that the malware arrives pre-installed on handsets that are bought in their millions by typically low-income households tells you everything you need to know about what the industry is currently up against”.