Cybersecurity must play catch up as more Kenyans move online

A report by Deloitte named Technology, Media and Telecommunications Predictions 2017, ranked Kenya as one of the most vulnerable countries worldwide in terms of cyber security. Kenya has a current internet penetration of 85.3 percent, one of the highest in Africa.

The report showed companies and government organisations in Kenya lost a record of US$171 million through cybercrime in 2016 and this is expected to rise by 30 percent by the end of 2017. 

Moreover, Kaspersky has ranked Kenya among the countries that are in risk of new threats such as hidden malware.  The security company described “invisible” targeted attacks as ones that hide malware in memory and not in the hard drives.

Banks, financial institutions, telecom companies and government institutions are the main focus for these hidden attacks. According to Kaspersky, eight Kenyan enterprises have already been hit, making it fourth most at risk worldwide.

The Kenyan government has also lost a lot of money through insider vulnerabilities in its Integrated Finance Management Information System (IFMIS). Billions of shillings have been fraudulently lost leading to recommendations that the system must be overhauled.

Kenya is a victim of global cybersecurity threats, both within organisations and outside. And according to Riaan Badenhorst, Managing Director at Kaspersky Lab Africa, the increase in internet penetration throughout the country is opening doors for new users and also for attackers.

“The landscape in Africa and specifically Kenya does not differ that much from global threat landscape. Historically in Africa a couple of years back, most of the threats we identified in Africa were offline threats like malware that are spread through USB,” he tells IDG Connect.

“But with the internet penetration and Kenya being one of the fastest growing countries in terms of internet penetration, the kind of increase in the number of malware that we have seen in the Kenyan market has increased exponentially.”


Kenyan government bodies and companies desperately need to combat the growing cases of cybersecurity and safeguard the public from losses.

“The hackers are [also] becoming smarter and the malware is becoming advanced. It is a lot more difficult to detect and to respond to malware once infection takes place. There is also an increase is malware targeting the customers of financial institutions like online banking systems and banking applications,” Badenhorst explains.

Companies now need to think in terms of predictive analysis to detect cyber insecurity.


The need for business threat intelligence

Threat intelligence refers to the gathering of cyber knowledge in any given industry. It can be represented by industry specific threat feeds.

Threat Intelligence helps companies prepare for the coming trends. Unfortunately, not many companies and government bodies in Kenya have embraced this yet.

“Threat intelligence firstly comes down to awareness. If companies, organisations and consumers aren’t aware of the possible threats they are more at risk,” Badenhorst explains.

For example, more people are aware of software such as antivirus for their personal computers but they are not aware of dangers with their mobile devices.

“They don’t believe they need security for their mobile devices. [Yet] the number of threats targeting the mobile devices is increasing,” he says.

Kenya is mostly mobile first. This has led many employees to use their smartphones to access company digital assets, unaware of the new threats. Dangers such as ransomware are becoming a phenomenon that could endanger the progress of companies on the continent.

Corporations typically understand that they need some kind of endpoint technology running on their network, to ensure hackers cannot penetrate their network through their gateway, but all of these are seen as preventative technologies.

“At this point in time, 80 percent of companies’ IT spend on security goes towards preventative technologies,” says Badenhorst. “They need to start investing in threat intelligence technology to assist in some predictions around specific malware targeting the industry they are in.”

He believes that such moves would help emergency response units to create ways to counter new and trending threats. Companies also need well trained people in companies to restore network functions once a threat is detected in the system.

But according to Badenhorst, the continent lacks enough specialised personnel to deal with the new emerging IT threats. “The malware industry is a multi-billion [dollar] business but we do not have enough security personnel on the continent,” he says, expressing the need for intentional training, even within organisations.

There are various ways of building a threat intelligence system and various organisations that can assist in intelligence around threats. These organisations analyse security feeds from companies and extract insights from them to understand new threats.

Badenhorst concludes that before companies adopt any new technology they should make sure they understand it. They should also have a security strategy in place that encompasses threat intelligence in case of new technology adoption.


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Vincent Matinde

Vincent Matinde is an international IT Journalist highlighting African innovations in the technology scene.

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