Unprecedented spike in cyber attacks since declaration of national disaster

26 March 2020 - 07:24
By Pieter van der Merwe
There has been a spike in the number of cyber attacks in SA since a national state of disaster was declared.
Image: Picture: 123RF/welcomia There has been a spike in the number of cyber attacks in SA since a national state of disaster was declared.

SA has seen an unprecedented increase in attacks on digital networks since President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a state of disaster on March 15, the cybersecurity company Kaspersky reported.

The company said attacks jumped tenfold from about 30,000 devices affected daily before the announcement, to up to 310,000 devices in the days that followed, BusinessLIVE reports.

According to Maher Yamout, a senior security researcher for Kaspersky, the attacks varied, however, up to a third were brute-force attacks — in which attackers attempt various password combinations to penetrate an account or system.

Kaspersky reiterated a number of security tips, including using strong passwords, not sharing passwords and avoiding unprotected or public Wi-Fi, and making use of multi-factor authentication where possible.

“In reviewing this spike, it certainly reinforces the need to institute critical security measures for remote working strategies, to ensure effective protection,” said Yamout.

SA has already seen an increase in remote working since the president’s initial announcement, and this is set to increase sharply when the 21-day nationwide lockdown commences at midnight on Thursday.

Law firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr has advised companies to adopt an information security policy and ensure that employees adhere to it.

It advised that employees, among others, use VPNs, steer clear of suspicious links or e-mails, and refrain from sharing documents or confidential information on public platforms.

Similarly, Kaspersky advised that companies use only corporate-approved teleconferencing software, and install the latest updates and security software on all company devices.

The South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) has also advised South Africans to be vigilant as it expects attacks to increase.

These attacks, said Sabric, ranged from malicious websites and spam e-mails to phishing scams and fake charities, as well as internal communications.In 2018, Sabric estimated that online banking fraud alone has led to the loss of more than R260m.

Previous reports have indicated a total loss of R2.2bn due to cybercrime, however Sabric clarified that it never reported this number.

“These new scams include spoofed e-mails offering products such as masks, or fake offerings of vaccines, leading to phishing websites,” Sabric said in a statement.

Kaspersky said it believed the spike indicated cybercriminals may have turned their focus to Southern Africa given the current circumstances. It warned remote working presented an opportunity for cyber criminals, especially for those who do not have adequate security measures in place.

Read here: Sabric’s tips on how to avoid digital attacks