In the wake of today’s highly interconnected digital landscape, African enterprises are increasingly battling a ballooning number of cyber threats that have enormous potential to cripple their day-to-day operations, expose sensitive data, and inflict irreparable financial losses.
Driven by the acceleration of technological advances and the relentless malicious actors becoming more sophisticated, it is now becoming crucial for businesses in the region to rethink their overall approach to cybersecurity and data protection as their ultimate defense.
In view of these emerging challenges that are seemingly slowing down the region’s much-needed digital transformation, there’s a growing need to identify and explore the common cyber threats faced by African enterprises and the underlying risks associated with a lack of investment in cyber protection infrastructure. It is also crucial to highlight the key components of a strong cyber protection strategy, the emerging technologies such as the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the cyber protection space, and most importantly, the future of cyber protection in Africa.
The changing face of cyber threats
A recent Interpol report singled out online scams, digital extortion, business email compromise, ransomware, and botnets as Africa’s top five cyber threats. These threats continue to pose significant risks to individuals and organizations across the continent as far as protection from cybercrime is concerned. These threats have evolved over time, becoming more sophisticated and lucrative as cyber criminals deploy newer and more complex methods.
One emerging and largely alarming trend that also featured prominently at the just concluded Africa’s first-ever GITEX exhibition held in Marrakech, Morocco is the use of AI and chatbot-driven technology by cybercriminals to deploy undetectable malware. Such technology has enabled them to design and carry out attacks with greater efficiency and effectiveness. The proliferation of these threats demands a proactive approach to cyber protection.
The cost of inadequate cybersecurity investment
The lack of investment in cybersecurity infrastructure has exposed African businesses to grave risk in terms of not being able to compete favorably with their international counterparts or even becoming unattractive trade partners.
In today’s business landscape, it is no longer a matter of whether an organization becomes a cyberattack victim, but more importantly when. By 2017, the cost of cyberattacks on African economies was estimated to be over US$3 billion. In terms of cost to the economy, these attacks alone cost South Africa over US$573 million, the Nigerian economy US$500 million, and the Kenyan economy US$36 million in 2014.
And with Africa’s growing internet connectivity and the casual approach to cyber protection by companies in the region, these numbers are expected to rise significantly. To mitigate the risks, African businesses must invest in robust cyber protection solutions, adopt best practices, and take a proactive approach to safeguard their digital assets.
Building a strong cyber protection strategy
A comprehensive and unified approach to cybersecurity is essential for African enterprises on the back of growing and evolving threats. Deploying a multi-level defense system is, therefore, paramount. It begins with implementing strong passwords and employing multi-factor authentication whenever possible. Backing up data and systems is also crucial, as it provides an extra layer of protection against data loss, corruption, and system failures. Adhering to the 3-2-1 backup rule – maintaining three copies of data, with two stored in different locations and one off-site – can ensure business continuity.
Furthermore, companies should also seriously consider using multi-factor authentication and immutable backups to protect against modification by attackers. However, backup alone is not enough; prevention, detection, and mitigation of cyber attacks earlier in the kill chain are equally important and should be integrated into the overall cybersecurity strategy.
Embracing emerging technologies and trends
To stay ahead of cyber threats, African enterprises must embrace emerging technologies and trends in the cyber protection space. Automation and AI/Machine Learning (ML) tools are increasingly being utilized by cyber attackers to develop and deploy sophisticated attacks more frequently. As more African businesses integrate cloud and Software as a Service applications, attackers are also shifting their focus to cloud resources and APIs for direct and lethal attacks.
Infrastructure tools by service providers including deployment of resources and remote access components, are also increasingly becoming prime targets. Companies must, therefore, integrate relevant mission-critical tools, such as the Acronis EDR, and techniques that are able to detect and prevent attacks targeting their digital infrastructure. Consolidating and simplifying IT environments, along with leveraging integration and AI/ML technologies to automate processes, can help minimize human errors and strengthen overall cyber protection posture.
The future of cyber protection in Africa
Africa’s thriving digital ecosystem and cyber protection landscape are expected to face further challenges largely because of emerging technologies and digitalization. Data breaches and ransomware attacks will remain largely profitable for attackers, necessitating a persistent focus on cyber protection. In response, individuals and organizations should implement sophisticated multi-level cyber protection strategies, adhering to best practices and leveraging advanced technologies.
The evolving cyber threats demand a proactive approach, comprehensive investment, a multi-level defense strategy, and most importantly, partnerships with tried-and-tested cyber protection experts.