Ghosts in the Machine: It’s a Spooky Digital Landscape out there!

Ghosts in the Machine: It’s a Spooky Digital Landscape out there!

Picture the scene. It’s a Halloween Quiz Night, and you and your teammates need to answer True or False correctly on the following questions to win the grand prize.

So here it goes:

1. True or False: Ninety-five percent of all data breaches occur due to human error?

2. True or False:  Seventy-five percent of all cyberattacks start with an email?

3. True or False: A cyberattack occurs somewhere in the world every 39 seconds?

Alas, the answers are True, True and True again.

As technology continues to advance, so the landscape of cybercrime and cybersecurity threats also evolves. During 2020, the United Nations warned that cybercrime – which includes everything from theft, embezzlement, data hacking and destruction – was up 600 percent as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to KPMG’s Africa Cyber Security Outlook of September 2022, one in three organisations in Africa had experienced a cyberattack during the period covered by the survey (2021-2022). These attacks ranged from business email compromise at the top of the list (26 percent), swiftly followed by ransomware (17 percent) and data leakage (16 percent), to denial of service attacks (13 percent), and many, many more other forms of attacks making up the remaining 28 percent.

How then do African businesses organise their cybersecurity defences to protect against these cyberattacks? Global strategic technology provider Borwood has put a few suggestions together, brought to you in collaboration with our value-added distribution partner, Exclusive Networks Africa.

Protection against sophisticated attacks

Cybercriminals are becoming more sophisticated and organised, with the advanced tools and technologies that are being used making it more difficult to detect and defend against attacks. Assaults driven by artificial intelligence (AI) can adapt and evolve rapidly, making defence even more challenging. To protect yourself against AI-driven cyberattacks, a combination of proactive measures and ongoing vigilance is required.

Some steps you can take include:

· User training: Understanding the common tactics used in AI-driven cyber-attacks can help individuals recognise and respond to potential threats.

· Multi-factor authentication (MFA):  AI-driven attacks often rely on stolen or compromised credentials, and therefore MFAs add an extra layer of security.

· Regular software updates: AI-driven attacks exploit known vulnerabilities, and so keeping your software current helps to protect against this.

· Strong passwords: AI can crack weak passwords more easily, therefore make sure to use unique passwords for each of your accounts.

· Email security: AI-driven phishing attacks are becoming more convincing, and so it is critical to be cautious – always – with email links. Always verify the source of the email before clicking on any links or downloading an attachment.

Ransomware

Ransomware attacks are becoming increasingly prevalent and more sophisticated, with a 37 percent increase in global ransomware attacks in 2023. These attacks encrypt the victim’s data – so that the organisation or individual is unable to access it, and a ransom is demanded for its release.

Since COVID-19 and the increase of staff working from home, there has been a reported increase of 300 percent in reported ransomware attacks, according to the FBI in the United States  – with remote workers’ devices and home networks becoming targeted.

Interesting Read: How to Avoid the Risks and Dangers of Downloading Videos Online

Steps you can take to protect yourself from ransomware attacks include:

· Back up your data: Regularly backing up your data to an offline or offsite location can ensure you are able to recover your data if it is encrypted by ransomware. Automated, scheduled backups are highly recommended.

· Follow the 3-2-1 rule: Keep at least three copies of your data, in two different formats, with one of those copies stored offsite. This rule helps ensure redundancy and disaster recovery.

· Collaborate with IT security experts: Working with cybersecurity experts allows them to assess your security measures and provide guidance on improving your defences against ransomware.

· Develop an incident response plan. Developing an incident response plan outlining the steps to take in the event of a ransomware attack will assist in acting quickly to isolate infected systems and prevent further data loss.

AI-generated malware

Malware software is used to gain unauthorised access to IT systems, steal data, disrupt services, or cause harm to IT networks. Cybercriminals have started to use AI to create new forms of malware that are highly evasive and challenging to detect by traditional security measures.

Protecting yourself against malware attacks is essential in today’s digital landscape. Here’s how:

· Antivirus software: Install reputable antivirus and anti-malware software on your devices and keep this software up to date to ensure it can detect the latest threats.

· Regular updates: Keeping your operating system, software applications and antivirus programs up to date with the latest version will patch vulnerabilities from older versions that malware can exploit.

· Be cautious with email: Making use of an email filtering service can assist with blocking malicious emails. Be cautious when opening email attachments or clicking on links especially if the sender is unknown or if the email looks suspicious. Always adopt a proactive and cautious approach, and rather be sceptical of suspicious emails and attachments then fall victim to a cyber-attack.

· Regular scans and maintenance: Conduct regular malware scans on your devices using antivirus software, and remove any suspicious or unwanted downloads, software or browser extensions.

· Stay informed: Keep up to date with the latest cybersecurity news and emerging threats. Awareness is key to staying protected.

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the network of interconnected physical devices and objects that can communicate and exchange data over the internet. While IoT has the potential to revolutionise various aspects of our lives, it also poses significant challenges when it comes to cybersecurity and cybercrime.

With regards to security around IoT devices, the following best-practice actions are recommended:

· Update your devices regularly: Keep your IoT devices updated with the latest software and firmware versions, as these often contain security patches designed to fix bugs and vulnerabilities that could be exploited by cybercriminals.

· Secure your network: Using a strong, unique password on your wi-fi network will assist against a cyberattack. Making use of a firewall and antivirus software will protect your network from malicious traffic and malware.

· Disable unused features: Many IoT devices come with default settings that enable features such as remote access, voice control and location tracking. These features increase attack opportunities and expose the device to potential threats. Turning off or limiting these features, and enabling them only when they are required, can protect against potential threats.

· Educate yourself: Stay informed about the latest trends and threats on the IoT landscape, and follow the recommendations and guidelines that come from reputable sources.

Trick or treat? Don’t be tricked…

As children all over South Africa have been trick or treating for Halloween in 2023, those involved in the IT world – both users, consumers and IT managers – can see very clearly that steps must be taken to beat possible ghosts with ill-intent lurking within IT networks everywhere.

To stay secure in today’s spooky digital landscape, it is essential to stay informed about the latest cybersecurity threats and best practices, as well as regularly updating software, using strong passwords and enabling multi-factor authentication.

Happy Halloween…stay safe!

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