Cybersecurity in Africa can emerge stronger from the coronavirus crisis

April 24, 2020

We wrote recently about the impact that coronavirus is having on Africa. As a company with its headquarters in Switzerland and with offices and customers across the rest of Europe, it would be easy to have a Euro-centric view of this current crisis.

But Oxial has a strong presence in Africa, with offices in Morocco and customers and partners throughout the continent. It is important to recognise the global reach of coronavirus and to acknowledge the fantastic efforts by scientists, healthcare providers and businesses all over the world in combatting the spread of this virus and caring for the affected.

For all organisations, keeping people healthy is the main priority, but for many it is also vital to keep the business moving and to try and ensure that the long-term economic impact of COVID-19 is minimised. Part of this is to reduce the damage and risk that comes from cyber criminals.

Doing so is a global challenge, but one that is perhaps even more pronounced in Africa, where cybersecurity is less evolved and less equipped to deal with the increasing professionalism of cyber criminals.Oxial’s approach involves including cyber-attack within risk management software and strategies, helping to ensure that the cybersecurity risk is treated seriously.

How is the cyber threat greater in Africa?

Part of the challenge facing African organisations, is that the continent is Africa is over targeted and under regulated – a dangerous combination. Research in late 2019 by cybersecurity firm Check Pointshowed that while the cost of data breaches in Africa is less than other continents, firms in Africa are being targeted almost three times as much as their counterparts in the rest of the world.

The average African organisation is 1,502 times per week according to the research, compared with 596 attacks elsewhere. The four African countries that were most targeted were Namibia, Zambia, South Africa and Nigeria.

Just as the volume of cyber-attacks is increasing, so is the profile of many of these. In October 2019, the network of the Johannesburg City Council was shut down for nearly two weeks by a ransomware attack, which was similar in approach to one carried out on City Power, the main electricity provider to Johannesburg just a few months previously.

Such attacks are not unique to Africa of course, although a further report in late-2019 from training firm Knowbe4, suggested four main factors that make ransomware and other cyber-attacks a bigger problem in Africa than elsewhere. Because of Africa’s reputation it is considered more of a safe haven for criminals, there is a lack of funding for cybersecurity with organisations (less than 1% or often non-existent), there is a lack of awareness from users who have got into bad cybersecurity habits and finally there is a general a lack of legislation and law enforcement.

Moving forward to a more secure future

The current coronavirus crisis has also raised a number of additional cybersecurity concerns for organisations. Cyber criminals are attempting in increasing numbers to take advantage of over-stretched IT teams and distracted employees by utilising phishing campaigns and ransomware attacks that prey on people’s anxiety and concern regarding coronavirus.

It is too early to say for certain whether these attacks are worse in Africa than elsewhere in the world butgiven the lack of defences in businesses and general bad cybersecurity practices amongst users, then it might well be. But the crisis – devastating as it is in many ways – could be a tipping point for African businesses to take cybersecurity that it warrants.

While many African firms struggle to understand cybersecurity requirements and perhaps lack the resources to make the required investment, there are options available to them.By working with an organisation such as Oxial, which is affordable, feature-rich and addresses cybersecurity as part of an overall risk management strategy, African businesses have access to the expertise and know-how of our partners.

This includes the technology partners to protect and mitigate against cyber-attack, but also the business partners that can advise on best practice and specific requirements. Our risk management software can map the threat to businesses posed by cyber criminals and put in place the measures that will protect against that threat.

Coronavirus is going to change many things about business, in Africa and elsewhere in the world. One more positive outcome is that it may encourage companies to look at risk management and cybersecurity with even more focus.

For details of how Oxial helps its African customers address cybersecurity with enterprise risk management software, and could help you in the future, please contact us here.