Chuks Ekueme: The Shoprite-Ransomware Cyberattack Saga – What African Organizations Can Learn | #itsecurity | #infosec


As the world gradually emerges from the pandemic lockdown era, we grapple with a “new normal” that is increasingly difficult to predict. From the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, to the increase in gun violence across the world, global inflation, etc. Despite the unpredictability of the current global socio-economic climate, one thing that is indeed predictable, is the pervasive threat of cyberattacks.  

Consider this obvious fact: Every computer system or digital device that connects to the internet is posed with cyberthreat. With this in mind, it is surprising that so many African organizations have little or no cybersecurity measures in place.

The Shoprite ransomware cyberattack perpetrated by RansomHouse, a ransomware gang, which compromised customer data in Eswatini, Namibia and Zambia, is a wakeup call to all African organizations to see cybersecurity measures as a necessity – not an option.

Unfortunately, there is a widely-held perception across many African organizations and government entities that cyberthreats are not yet a big concern for Africa, due to the belief that many African hackers are more likely to target companies outside the continent. This is an erroneous notion, as hackers exist worldwide, so obviously, cyberattacks can originate from anyone located anywhere in the world.   

The importance of cybersecurity in Africa cannot be overemphasized. About 38% of people in Africa have an online presence. This suggests that out of about a 1.37 billion population, there are over 500 million Internet users. The top 3 countries in Africa with the most online presence are as follows: Kenya (83% of the population), Nigeria (60%), South Africa (56%). (Interpol 2021) 

Furthermore, cyber ignorance could be responsible for more than 90% of African businesses not operating with the necessary cybersecurity protection in place. (CGTN).

Interestingly, ransomware attacks are some of the most common cybersecurity breaches that occur in Africa, along with malware, email spoofing (business e-mail compromise), social engineering, supply chain attacks (mostly involving large organizations or government entities) and others (online scams, digital blackmail etc). 

Ransomware is a type of malware that tends to encrypt a victim’s data, synchronize it to a remote node or tends to block its access while ransom is demanded. The average ransom demanded for is at least $300,000, and has no maximum – meaning, there are no limits to the amount of money demanded as ransom.

According to Kaspersky Reporting, Africa experiences about 85 million malware attacks every 6 months. 

In 2020 – 2021 Trend Micro reported that the following African countries had the highest total cyberthreat detections:

1) South Africa 230 million threat detections 

2) Kenya 72 million 

3) Morocco 71 million 

Regarding ransomware attacks, the following African countries have had the highest prevalence in recent years: Egypt, South Africa, Tunisia, and Nigeria 

Africa is paying gravely for its ignorance about cybersecurity. To worsen matters, not enough awareness is sponsored by various organizations and governments.
Interpol reported in 2021 that about $4.12 billion is lost to cyberattacks annually in Africa, but in my opinion, cyberattack incidences and losses are under-reported in Africa, as many organizations don’t reveal how much ransom they have paid, or the level of damage, as they are worried about the panic it could cause. In reality, Africa could be losing over $10 billion annually, especially in this era, when hackers are using artificial intelligence, bots, DDoS and polymorphic systems of attacks. 

The facts are glaring. Take into consideration some major instances of cyberattacks in Africa that have happened in recent times: 

  • In March, credit bureau, TransUnion South Africa was hacked by a group, which demanded a $15 million (R223 million) ransom for over four terabytes (4TB) of compromised data. 
  • Dis-Chem got attacked which exposed about 4 million personal records of South Africans.
  • In April, popular Nigerian gaming company, Bet9ja was hacked and ransom was demanded. 
  • In August 2020, credit bureau, Experian, suffered a data breach, which exposed some personal information of about 30 million South Africans and 793,749 business entities to a suspected fraudster. 

Given the above, Shoprite Group whose head office is in South Africa, should have noticed this trend and taken the necessary precautions to guard against cyberattacks. Worst of all, data was kept in plain text, instead of being encrypted: A sure recipe for hackers to wreak havoc. 

It is important to note that an average vulnerable organisation loses about 3 months of the year to down time, with most of it attributed to cyberattacks or deliberate limitation of scope of services, due to the fear of being hacked or exposed. Sadly, this amounts to the loss of about 25% of organizations’ business turnover. 

If the current apathetic disposition towards cybersecurity persists, Africa could be at a huge risk for even more major cyberattacks, as the very basic cybersecurity protection and defense systems are hardly implemented. I fear that hackers will continue to milk Africa’s scarce economy running into billions of dollars for subsequent years to come.  

For effective protection against cyber attacks, I would advise African organizations to opt for a cutting edge, cloud optimized cyber defense and vulnerability protection system such as LossLess 360 Security, which ensures complete encryption, protection and recovery. 

Get LossLess 360 Security today! For more information, contact:

E-mail: lossless@uniccongroup.com

Phone: +9-292-9326 | +234-913-716-0837

Website: https://lossless.uniccongroup.com

_____________________________________________________________

Chuks Ekueme

CEO, Uniccon Group & LossLess 360 Security

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