The threat of cybercrime is back in the news as Interpol recently released its Africa Cyber Threat Assessment 2021 report which breaks down the most pervasive threats across the continent so organizations and consumers can better navigate their way. prepare and protect yourself.
It would be a mistake to relegate the importance of this report to the IT department, says Chris Norton, regional director – Africa, Veeam Software. The C-suite is an integral part of the fight against cybercrime because it goes beyond theft or reputation – it presents an existential threat.
According to the Interpol report, the top five threats in Africa are:
- online scams;
- digital extortion;
- compromise of business emails;
- ransomware; and
Before we delve a little deeper into the implications of each threat and how organizations should protect themselves, it’s essential to understand how the criminals behind the scams operate.
Most attacks are not carried out by one-off opportunists. Cybercriminals operate in highly organized criminal networks and spend a lot of time and money on research and development activities, equipped with the latest technology and social engineering, to make their attacks highly sophisticated. Far from being alarmist, any organization should start from the understanding that it is not a question of “if” an attack will take place, but of “when”.
These attacks tend to target older generations who are less digitally savvy. Usually they are more confident and unfortunately often have more to lose. Many of these scams tend to mimic a bank’s communication to harness the trust and respect that older people have in bankers and the role they have played in their lives.
To make matters worse, scams are becoming more and more elaborate, believable, and, to an untrained or inexperienced person, appear legitimate and plausible.
This one may have taken a lot of people by surprise. Simply because they are online, digital natives such as schoolchildren and young people in their twenties may well be most at risk. This type of scam relies on the threat of extreme social and reputational damage.
While extortion is easy to avoid if one does not participate in dangerous activities such as sending compromising selfies, younger age groups tend to find themselves in these situations more often.
Trade-offs of professional emails
Better known as phishing, these scams involve sending emails claiming to be from reputable or well-known companies to trick people into revealing personal information such as passwords or PINs.
Remote working has exacerbated this phenomenon as many employees do not work in secure corporate networks, or receive (or ignore!) Cybersecurity training that could protect them, giving criminals a great attack surface. bigger.
This form of extortion has cost the world $ 20 billion so far in 2021 and is expected to increase by more than ten times that amount by 2031. No wonder it gives many business leaders sleepless nights because it can be very profitable for criminals and can inflict untold damage to the reputation of companies.
Ransomware succeeds when organizations choose to pay the ransom rather than suffer the public embarrassment of the debacle that would follow complete data loss. The criminals behind the ransomware attacks are organized and sophisticated and arguably pose the greatest threat to African businesses, with one company falling prey to such requests every 11 seconds.
The level of risk posed by ransomware is – to some extent – dependent on the core business. For example, a company that manages its basic functions digitally, such as a bank, would suffer catastrophic losses if it lost its data, while a manufacturer would still be at significant risk, but it would not necessarily lose its ability to generate income.
However, reputational damage and loss of customer trust can be severe enough to cause a business to collapse, regardless of industry. This means that no industry can think of itself as immune to the negative effects of ransomware.
This is usually how hackers hide: They use compromised corporate and personal computers to orchestrate and launch their attacks, which means the trail cools down quite quickly.
If an organization does not regularly run anti-virus and anti-malware scans, it runs the risk of inadvertently helping hackers gain access to their networked computers.
What can organizations do?
The C suite plays a crucial role in the fight against cybercrime, with all executive decision makers playing their part in recognizing the collective ownership of company and customer data.
All departments use the data for business benefit and decision making. Thus, board members should support the security and technology strategy, investment and policy driven by their fellow CIO / CISO.
Developing an effective cyber resilience strategy also requires buy-in and commitment from all departments to help communicate and monitor its continued progress.
Additionally, an effective cyber resilience strategy must work in harmony across all divisions and layers of an organization. Prevention should always be the number one priority, but in the event of a breach or attack, the business should have a disaster recovery plan in place, which is understood and communicated.
Any ransomware or cyber attack can be catastrophic, so there should never be any compromise on how threats are prepared or handled.
While a business is a large organization, its people are the first line of defense. This means that organizations concerned with improving their resilience should receive ongoing training on how to identify suspicious emails or threats, and how to manage sensitive data to minimize phishing and botnet incursions. .
These are preventable, but they require strong mailbox management with spam deposit rules to isolate possible threats, as well as machine learning and artificial intelligence tools designed to minimize the chances of spam mailers. emails reach the user’s inbox.
Technology has advanced significantly over the past couple of years, so businesses should consider deploying modern data protection tools and strategies to ensure data recovery in the event of a serious breach.
Backup and recovery
Criminals have evolved, so have businesses. It’s no longer enough to have an outdated 3-2-1 backup mentality – three copies, on two different media, one copy being offsite.
Today, and in an effort to effectively protect data against rapidly evolving threats, best practices add two more layers to the old rule to become 3-2-1-1-0: three copies of data, two on different media, one offsite and one empty or immutable copy and restored without error so that the vulnerability is not restored in production.
As we can see, it is good to understand how cybercriminals attack both consumers and businesses. However, this is only one side of the resilience coin. The other requires using that understanding to develop a methodical readiness and backup strategy that is led from the C suite down, and that is grounded in best practice, modern data management.
- By Chris Norton, Regional Director – Africa, Veeam Software.
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