Mark Davison reports from Kaspersky’s Cyber Security Weekend in Kuala Lumpur – The META (Middle East, Turkey and Africa) region is under sustained threat from cybercriminals and Africa, in particular, has become their number one target.

This is the word from Dr Amin Hasbini, head of Global Research & Analysis Team (GReAT) for the META region at Kaspersky, who points out that Kenya endured more than 41-million cyberattacks last year; South Africa 33-million; and Nigeria 21-million.

Ransomware has been the number one problem in the region for three years in a row and continues to dominate the list of threats, Dr Hasbini adds, and file encryption has been the number one process.

“And the dynamics are changing,” says Dr Hasbini. “Some countries are experiencing more ransomware attacks, while others are experiencing increased DoS (Denial of Service) threats.”

Dr Hasbini says that the dynamics among cybercriminals are also changing.

“Underground cybercriminals have been growing fast,” he says. “They are flourishing at present and the network keeps growing.

“This is a challenge for everyone, not just organisations, because they are now targeting everyone – individuals, families, kids,” says Hasbini. “And they are adopting new methodologies, new technology … they are even co-operating with each other and competing against each other which is bad for everyone.

“And the situation is further compounded when we recently discovered that certain cybercriminals have access to Zero Day – access to a system with no limits,” he adds. “This is the kind of capacity that cybercriminals are building on.”

Dr Hasbin says that the scale of attacks on the continent is also on the rise. “A case in point is the Raysida attack on 8 January on a South African educational institution which included 500Gb of files housing personal and confidential information. To put that in perspective, it is the equivalent of 500 000 large Excel files.”

Advanced persistent threats (APTs) are also becoming a “go-to” for cybercriminals.

“The most targeted sectors by APTs are government, telecoms, financial, and industrial,” Dr Hasbini says. “Government level is proving to be a huge challenge in the region and because of the speed at which digital transformation is taking place, we’re expecting the challenge to grow ever bigger.”