Technology

Cyber attacks on computer systems, mobile apps surge

attack

A system attack is an attempt to disable computers, steal data, or use a breached computer system to launch additional attacks. File | Pool

Cyber attacks on computer systems and mobile applications recorded the highest increase in the three months to December last year, the latest data from the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) shows.

According to the CA’s Cyber Security report for the period, system attack threats that were detected increased 10-fold compared to the preceding three-month period that ended in September to hit 1.3 billion, while advisories issued rose 14.1 percent to stand at 3.5 million.

A system attack is an attempt to disable computers, steal data, or use a breached computer system to launch additional attacks.

“The exponential growth in the exploitation of system vulnerabilities, which is a vector that has long been used by cyber threat actors, may be attributed to the proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT) devices which are inherently insecure,” noted the regulator in the report.

Detected attacks on mobile applications, on the other hand, increased 94.2 percent to stand at 52,705 as advisories issued by CA rose almost four-fold to hit 34,425.

“Majority of the attacks were targeted at organisations within the ICT sector. Attackers targeted database servers, operating systems, and infrastructure belonging to various Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and cloud-based services,” said CA, adding that most attackers exploited vulnerabilities in outdated operating systems and leaked user login credentials.

Read: Cyber criminals tightening grip on mobile applications

Sensitive data

Other forms of cyber assaults that saw an increase during the period include brute force attacks, which rose by 89.6 percent to 9.7 million and malware attacks which increased by 75.9 percent to 13.2 million.

According to CA, malware attacks were targeted at systems deemed to hold sensitive data such as personal and financial information with objectives mainly being to disrupt and sabotage systems and take control of entire networks for malicious purposes.

Attacks on web applications, however, decreased by 31.9 percent compared to those recorded in the quarter to September, to stand at 72,536 as of the close of December.

In this category, attackers mainly targeted government systems with a pointed focus on user login credentials, vulnerable web browsers, and State-owned database servers.

“Most attackers exploited vulnerabilities in security misconfigurations,” said CA.

Read: GIKUNDA: Close the cybersecurity skills gap to contain growing cyber threats

Impersonation

The Authority says that during the period under review, the National Kenya Computer Incident Response Team – Coordination Centre (National KE-CIRT/CC) received a total of 270 digital investigation requests, representing a 10.3 percent dip from those submitted in the preceding quarter.

Digital forensic requests, however, more than doubled to stand at 213, with probe appeals on mobile forensics growing at the sharpest rate followed by those on disk forensics.

Under the digital use investigations trends, CA notes that fake news made the bulk of reported incidents at 25.1 percent, followed by impersonation at 21 percent, online fraud (19.9 percent), cyberbullying (17 percent), hacking or data theft (12.5 percent) and child abuse (3.7 percent).

“During the period, Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), Telegram, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Google, WhatsApp, and various blogs, were the top platforms that cyber threat actors leveraged to carry out diverse online harms whose objectives included stealing sensitive data, youth radicalisation, reputational damage to individuals, revenge attacks and for financial benefit,” the report reads.

“Most of the cases of impersonation reported to the National KE-CIRT/CC during the period were majorly committed on Facebook, X, Telegram, Instagram, and TikTok, with the motive being mainly political, revenge attacks and for purposes of propagating fraud.”

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