Hackers have doubled the number of cyber attacks against South Africans as the expansion of Internet access brings more people online.
This is according to cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab, which has been tracking the number of attacks through its antivirus network.
“These statistics state that the number of attacks on South Africa increased from 25m in all 2014 to 81,6m in 2015, until mid-November,” said Mohammad Amin Hasbini, senior security researcher of the Global Research and Analysis team at Kaspersky Lab.
He said that the increase could be attributed to increasing numbers of people gaining access to the Internet.
“Such numbers are extreme compared to other regions, while this could be considered as a result of accelerated IT and internet adoption growth in the market, it is also an alert to users and companies about the increased interest of cyber criminals in South African assets.”
Security company Fortinet found that hackers had increased their targeting of local companies by utilising ransomware hidden in legitimate-looking e-mails.
However, few South African companies are willing to make public the nature and scale of attacks.
“There is no specific number for the organisations that were hacked in South Africa, as this is usually information only available to the government itself,” said Hasbini.
“In line with this … the Protection of Personal Information (Popi) Act could potentially be fully functional by 2017, which then legally forces companies inside South Africa to share information on breaches they face with the government,” he added.
Kaspersky said that attackers were divided into categories depending on whether they were motivated by financial, espionage, political or reputational demands.
For example, hacker group Impact Team, which carried out the Ashley Madison attack earlier this year, demanded that parent company Avid Life Media remove the fee to delete personal details on the site.
But Hasbini argued that identifying an attacker’s motivation was a difficult process.
“There is no way to identify the goal of the attackers until an investigation happens. Malware gets analysed and reverse engineered, and then the goals of the attacks could be identified as either financial, reputational, intellectual property, intelligence or spying.”
Kaspersky recently co-operated with Interpol to uncover a hack into banks that resulted in thieves stealing up to US$1bn from 100 financial institutions.
Hasbini said that companies should investigate all data leaks, as they may potentially signal a security threat.
“Businesses should avoid any type of data leak and investigate them when they happen, regardless of current data significance.” — Fin24