Cyberattacks targeting Kenya rise 5 times on AI-driven threats surge

There has been a growing risk of cyberattacks orchestrated by criminals using artificial intelligence.

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The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) has warned of the growing risk of cyberattacks orchestrated by criminals using artificial intelligence (AI), even as the number of attacks targeting Kenya jumped more than five times over the past year.

The CA data shows the National Kenya Computer Incident Response Team Coordination Centre (National KE-CIRT/CC) detected 971,440,345 cyber-attacks aimed at Kenya, particularly at State agencies, Internet and cloud service providers, and academic institutions between January and March.

This is a five-fold increase from the 187,757,659 cyber threats that the agency detected during the same period last year, signalling the worrying trend of growing attacks amid increased digitisation of the economy.

However, the CA has warned that cybercriminals are rapidly deploying AI to execute attacks to extend their social engineering efforts, spread malware, carry out adversarial attacks, and compromise critical information infrastructure and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

“AI-powered attacks are more intricate, bypassing traditional security measures through techniques such as sophisticated social engineering techniques and exploiting zero-day vulnerabilities. These attacks involve creating deep fakes to impersonate executives or tailoring phishing emails with higher personalisation, making them harder to detect,” says the CA.

It adds that AI is also being used to automate tasks in cyberattacks, which enables criminals to execute them rapidly and widely as it involves quicker identification of targets, the deployment of malware, and data exfiltration.

“AI is being employed to develop new types of malware that can learn and adapt to security defences. This involves techniques such as self-replication or mutation, making them harder to contain and eradicate,” warns the CA.

The regulator adds that criminals are developing adversarial AI to target and defeat other AI-powered security systems.

During the quarter, 90 percent of the detected cyber-attacks were system attacks, while the rest included distributed denial of service, malware, brute force, web application and mobile application attacks.

“The continued exploitation of 'system vulnerabilities’ is also aligned to global trends, and relates to the global surge in the deployment and use of Internet of Things devices which are inherently insecure,” it said.

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