Trend Micro Incorporated is paving the way for a collaborative approach to fighting cybercrime amidst a 95% increase in attacks in South Africa.

A chronic lack of investment in cybersecurity measures across the continent coupled with a growing dependence on technology has resulted in the number of cyberattacks in Africa to have grown significantly over the last decade. In fact, the problem has grown to the point where South Africa was reported as having the thirdd most victims of cybercrime in 2021 in the world.

According to senior sales engineer Zaheer Ebrahim: “Although the cybersecurity maturity of Africa has increased in recent years, it is not at the same standard compared to our peers from other parts of the world. When we look at the public disclosure of these attacks and have a deeper understanding, we can deduce that basic security controls are not in play within majority of the enterprises out there.”

A recent report by leading cybersecurity company, Trend Micro, has shown a drastic increase in email-based cyberattacks in 2021. Having blocked over 33.6 million cloud email threats globally in the same period, the global security leaders shared that this reflects a 101% increase compared to the previous year.

This lack of investment in security is costing African economies billions of dollars per year. However, in Kenya only 4% of companies spent more than 5000 US dollars on cybersecurity in 2019. A recent study also highlighted the growing threat in South Africa:

* 25% of all cybercrimes in the decade between 2010 and 2020 occurred in 2020;

* Nearly 40% of all attacks related to data breaches were data breaches; and

* 39% were criminally motivated.

The same report claims this trend in year-on-year growth is expected to continue unless there is a significant investment in cybersecurity by businesses. However, Africa has already grabbed the attention of cybercriminals and has experienced several high-profile breaches in recent months. This vulnerability further emphasises the need for cross-sector collaboration.

“Africa has always been seen as the forgotten continent,” says Ebrahim. “The recent attacks that have been made public just show the extent to which African countries are still being seen as the playground for bad actors.”

Trend Micro recently recognised the same need for collaboration, investing in partnerships with both global and local institutions to bring down cybercriminals in Nigeria.

“When we look at our positioning as Trend Micro, our main competition are bad actors and cyber criminals.” says Ebrahim. “We need to understand cyber warfare is vast and requires a lot of collaboration from law enforcement, governments, private sector and the vast number of cyber security vendors and researchers out there. Developing this collaborative ecosystem will help in decreasing the mean time to detect and respond to cyber threats.”

The plan, named Operation Killer Bee, saw Trend Micro partnering with global law enforcement Interpol and Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to bring down three suspects linked to a global scam targeting companies involved in the oil and gas industry ahead of a critical Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) meeting.

Trend Micro was able to utilise its expertise in cybersecurity to identify the malware, Agent Tesla, which possesses information and credential theft capabilities, and share this information with its partners. The information included in this report provided crucial insights into the groups modus operandi and aided both Interpol and the EFCC in apprehending the suspect.

The true success of this operation lay in its proving of the power of collaboration and investment in local partnerships in combatting cybercrime in Africa.

“Protecting the public and businesses from cyberthreats requires law enforcement to work closely with and to rely upon the expertise of the private sector,” says Interpol secretary general Ronald Noble.