Data Hub

Why passwords give businesses sleepless nights

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Compromised passwords have become the biggest concern for Corporate Kenya. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • A survey by pan-African fibre company, Liquid Telecom, says a massive 95 percent of firms had encountered incidents of compromised passwords, making it the single biggest cyber security threat followed by phishing attacks at 70 percent and insider threats (63).
  • Companies have also reported increasing phishing attacks, especially the “spear-phishing” technique where crooks send emails ostensibly from a known or trusted source to induce targeted individuals to reveal confidential information.
  • Global cyber security firm, Kaspersky, says such targeted phishing attacks can have serious consequences.
  • Once a fraudster accesses an employee’s mailbox, they can use it to carry out further attacks on the company the employee works for, the rest of its staff, or even its contractors.

Compromised passwords have become the biggest concern for Corporate Kenya, a new survey among IT and financial decision makers shows, highlighting the technology breach challenges as more customers migrated to digital platforms in the wake of Covid-19.

A survey by pan-African fibre company, Liquid Telecom, says a massive 95 percent of firms had encountered incidents of compromised passwords, making it the single biggest cyber security threat followed by phishing attacks at 70 percent and insider threats (63).

“The top mind business concerns are around loss of confidential company or personal information,” it said.

Password breaches have become a concern globally with many firms in recent months sending alerts to their clients to change or update their passwords. Once the passwords are cracked, attackers could use automated software to illegally log into popular services, including online banking, email or social media sites.

Companies have also reported increasing phishing attacks, especially the “spear-phishing” technique where crooks send emails ostensibly from a known or trusted source to induce targeted individuals to reveal confidential information.

Global cyber security firm, Kaspersky, says such targeted phishing attacks can have serious consequences. Once a fraudster accesses an employee’s mailbox, they can use it to carry out further attacks on the company the employee works for, the rest of its staff, or even its contractors.

“The biggest impact a cyber security breach would have on companies is financial loss such as of customers, business closure, bankruptcy, income and loss such as of customers, business closure, bankruptcy, income and loss of sales as well as of information and data and business disruption” Liquid Telecom said in its report.

In its quarter two 2020 report, Kaspersky indicates that Kenya had more than half a million phishing attacks, coming in second to South Africa which has 616,666 spam and phishing attacks.

Egypt registered 492,532, Nigeria 299,426, while Kenya’s East African neighbours Rwanda and Ethiopia only accounted for 68,931 and 31,585 respectively.

“When summarising the results of the first quarter, we assumed that Covid -19 would be the main topic for spammers and phishers for the past few months. And it certainly happened. While there was the rare spam mailing sent out without mentioning the pandemic, phishers adapted their old schemes to make them relevant for the current news agenda, as well as come up with new tricks,” says Tatyana Sidorina, security expert at Kaspersky.

Kaspersky analysis has indicated in Q2 that phishers increasingly performed targeted attacks, with most of their focus on small companies.

To attract attention, fraudsters forged emails and websites from organisations whose products or services could be bought by potential victims. In making these fake assets, fraudsters often did not even try to make the site appear authentic.

Kaspersky experts advise users to protect themselves from phishing by always checking online addresses in unknown or unexpected messages, whether it is the web address where you are being directed, the link address in a message and even the sender’s email address, to make sure they are genuine and that the link in the message doesn’t hide another hyperlink.

WORKING REMOTELY

Kenya has been seeing increased cybercrime activity with the latest data from the Communications Authority of Kenya showing that in the most recent quarter 34,644,531 cyber threats were detected.

Further, 17,844 advisories were issued by the National KE-CIRT, which was an increase from the 16,654 issued in the previous quarter.

Insider threats are also increasingly proving a headache for corporates as more employees work remotely in line with health safety regulations to contain the spread of Covid-19.

This trend is attributable to the fact that most security controls are designed to monitor and capture suspect activities within the office premises, leaving gaps as more employees remotely connect to company resources from mobile devices and external networks.

Most of the attacks are linked to employee negligence, misuse of data, and installation of unauthorised applications.

Liquid Telecom said to prevent such threats, companies have implemented a raft of measures such as email protection (70 percent), firewall (68 percent), and endpoint threat protection that includes anti-virus and anti-malware (63 percent) among employees working virtually to deter attacks.

Other water-tight measures are in data loss prevention (DLP) services (60 percent), regular security assessments (60 percent), security information and event management (48 percent) and penetration testing (38 percent).

Whereas 80 percent of respondents use cloud-based services such as Team, Zoom and Skype (72 percent) within Kenya, 63 percent use Microsoft Office 365.

“Online file sharing services such as OneDrive, Dropbox and Google Drive (69 percent) and Virtual Private Network (47 percent) were other ones," it adds.

CLOUD-BASED SERVICES

Security concerns raised on cloud-based services include data loss (81 percent), malware (78 percent), managing user access to information (66 percent) and visibility and control of data (63 percent).

"Others were account hijacking (56 percent), external sharing of files/information (47 percent), compliance (38 percent) and skills available within the business (38 percent)," it adds.

Moreover, 98 percent said they have upped cybersecurity focus due to increased risks (30 percent), safeguard/protect (21 percent), prevent/avoid (13 percent), improve/update (11 percent), need to stay relevant (10 percent), company experienced an attack (three percent) and peace of mind (two percent).