Cybercriminals are increasingly becoming a bigger threat to Africa’s financial institutions, Kaspersky Lab, a global cyber security company that has been operating in the market for 21 years, has warned.
The tech company has recorded a 4-fold increase in ‘crypto-mining’ attacks in the Middle East, Turkey and Africa (META) region from 3.5 million in 2017 to 13 million in 2018.
Most cryptocurrencies are generated through the process known as mining. These procedures require the use of energy and resources to complete a process which yields a financial reward. In the case of cryptocurrency mining, the energy required is electricity and computing power.
Crypto-mining attacks therefore refer to the unauthorized use of someone else’s computer to mine cryptocurrency.
“The past year has been extremely eventful in terms of the digital threats faced by financial institutions: cybercrime groups have used new infiltration techniques, and the geography of attacks has become more extensive,” the organisation said in a statement.
According to statistics by Kaspersky Lab, the Middle East, Turkey and Africa region witnessed a 17% increase in banking malware attack to reach almost half a million attacks in 2018.
The data also found that Cryptocurrencies have become an established part of many people’s lives, and a more attractive target for cybercriminals across the world, which resulted in a rapid increase in malicious mining of cryptocurrencies.
“The META region is becoming more appealing to cybercriminals, with financial and malicious cyrpotomining attacks taking center stage,” said Fabio Assolini, Senior Security Researcher at Kaspersky Lab.
“We discovered six new ATM malware families in 2018. On the other hand, illegal mining of cryptocurrencies has increased dramatically to overtake the main threat of the last few years. We believe the reason behind this is that mining is silent and cause less impact that ransomware, making it less noticeable,” he added.
Ransomware is a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid.
Cybercriminals are not showing any signs of stopping and attacks will continue to evolve.
Kaspersky Lab experts have now warned that the activity of cybercriminals in these regions is constantly growing.
“The immaturity of protective solutions in the financial sector and the rapid spread of various electronic means of payment among the population and companies in these regions are contributing to this,” they said.
The experts have predicted a high likelihood of attacks on mobile banking for business users in 2019.
“Mobile applications for business are gaining popularity, which is likely to lead to the first attacks on their users. There are enough tools for this, and the possible losses that businesses incur would be much higher than the losses incurred when individuals are attacked,” they explained.
In 2017 a number of suppliers of goods and services announced that they would accept cryptocurrencies as a form of payment.
“However, in the face of huge commissions, slow transfers, a large price for integration, and, most importantly, a small number of customers, its use as a method of payment declined steadily. In the end, the use of cryptocurrencies by a legitimate business simply does not make much sense,” Kaspersky’s researchers said.
They noted that until January 2018, there were immense highs and lows in the price of Bitcoin. These is not expected to return as the value of cryptocurrencies levels out to reflect their popularity.
“There is a finite audience for whom cryptocurrencies are of interest, and once that limit is reached, the price will not rise further,” Kaspersky’s team of experts concluded.