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Cybercriminals attack Nigeria, South Africa, others with ransomware

By Adeyemi Adepetun
28 December 2016   |   3:35 am
Ransomware is a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid. It is usually aimed at individuals.


Stakeholders want October as national cybersecurity awareness month

Activities of cyber criminals are on the increase with new wave of attacks on some African countries, including Nigeria.

According to CheckPoint’s survey, five African nations were among the top 10 most-attacked countries in November, as cybercriminals made increasing use of ransomware attacks using the Locky and Cryptowall viruses, capable of damaging up to 50 per cent of the data.

Ransomware is a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid. It is usually aimed at individuals.

This is even as stakeholders in Nigeria’s converged information and communications technology, ICT and broadcasting sectors have asked the Federal Government to consider the adoption of October as the national cybersecurity awareness month in line with global best practices as a matter of urgent national priority.

According to Checkpoint, a Software Technologies Ltd., and a global pure-play network cybersecurity vendor, Botswana was the most-attacked country in the list of 117 at-risk nations, followed by Malawi in second place, Namibia in fourth, Uganda in ninth and the Democratic Republic of Congo in 10th place. South Africa moved up to 31st on the list from 58th position in October, while Kenya dropped to 24th (from 22nd in October) and Nigeria climbed slightly to 108th position from 116th the previous month.

Already, Nigeria’s Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, had at a recent forum in the year, informed that the country is losing about N127 million yearly to activities of cybercriminals.

Besides, Nigeria, according to the Cyber Security Experts Association of Nigeria (CSEAN), is responsible for at least $9.3 billion out of the total global loss to the rising cybercrime menace.

Indeed, in its Global Threat Index, a ranking of the most prevalent malware families attacking organisations’ networks, Check Point noted a 10 per cent increase in the number of attacks using Locky and Cryptowall and found both the number of active malware families and number of attacks remained close to an all-time high as the number of attacks on business networks continued to be relentless.

Locky spreads mainly via spam emails containing a downloader disguised as a Word or Zip file attachment, which then downloads and installs the malware that encrypts the user files. Locky was the no.1 malware family in the largest amount of countries (34 countries compared to Conficker, which was the top malware in 28 countries).

According to the survey, the pattern highlighted the growing threat posed to corporate networks by ransomware and suggests that many organisations are simply paying ransoms to secure the return of their files, making it an attractive – and lucrative – attack vector for cybercriminals.

Area Manager, East and West Africa, CheckPoint Software Technologies, Rick Rogers, explained, “Ransomware attacks are still growing in volume for a simple reason; they work and generate significant revenues for the attackers. Organisations are struggling to effectively counteract the threat posed by this insidious attack form; many simply don’t have the right defences in place, and may not have educated staff on how to recognise the signs of a potential ransomware attack in incoming emails. This, of course, only makes it even more attractive to criminals.”

To the stakeholders, who gathered at the National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NASCAM) conference held Lagos, they stressed that cyber security should be given additional attention by the Federal Government going by the exponential growth of Internet-related activities in the country and the growing vulnerability of the government, corporate and individual citizens to the threats of cybercriminals.

Delivering a paper on Internet Jurisdiction: A Catch-22 Situation and the Trajectory of Nigeria’s Judicial System, Kunle Adegoke, Managing Partner M. A. Banire and Associates said: “The evil effect of cybercrimes can be hardly exhaustively appreciated as same may seem to be limitless. According to a report, ‘Cyber-crime costs the global economy about $445 billion every year, with the damage to business from the theft of intellectual property exceeding the $160 billion loss to individuals from hacking.’ A 2012 report says that Nigeria lost over N2 trillion to cybercrime in 2012and $200 million per year. The amount of loss annually occasioned now can be better imagined as youths today see cybercrime as an open sesame to sudden riches.”

While commending the Nigerian government for enacting the enabling law to deal with cyber crimes, he called for the strengthening of the existing laws because “The computer has created a different world of cyber existence where man can live without laws of ancient regime. The benefits of burden of human relations have occasioned cyber-crime as well.”

He expressed concern that “it is not good for technology to run faster than the law. Whenever, technology moves faster than the law, what you will have is a legal vacuum. Nigeria has suffered this legal vacuum for a long while.”

The immediate past Director-General, National Broadcasting Commission, Emeka Mba, also expressed the need for increased citizens’ and government’s participation in awareness creating and pragmatic interventions in the cyber security issues and challenges. He said that even the broadcast industry that used to have a sense of immunity against cyber-attacks is now more vulnerable like every other IT entities because of the convergence of technology which has allowed for the integration of Internet Protocols (a set of rules governing the format of data sent over the Internet or other network) in the broadcasting industry and the emergence of Smart television sets.