As hackers embrace AI, SaaS, African companies urged to revamp security

As hackers deploy AI and SaaS-based tools, African businesses need to expect the worst and adopt best security practices, security experts say. Here are some tips for stepping up cybersecurity.

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As hackers turn to the same advanced technology, including AI and SaaS (software as a service) applications, that has spurred digital transformation for legitimate organisations, African businesses face an increasing number of cyberthreats.

Harnessed correctly, AI can be trained to identify new types of malware, protect sensitive data and generate alerts for threats. But cybercriminals can also use the technology to up the scale and success of their social engineering attacks, security experts say.  When in the wrong hands, AI can enhance many of the social techniques cybercriminals currently employ to trick people into handing over sensitive data.

Hacking tools are also increasingly being offered as a service, just like many enterprise applications. The Thanos ransomware, for example, which uses the RIPlace technique to bypass most security methods, is just one of many ransomware tools that are being sold as a service.

AI can be used to improve cybersecurity, but malicious applications of AI are starting to emerge as cybercriminals use these technologies to mimic the practices of legitimate businesses, says Tatyana Shishkova, security expert at Kaspersky. While Africa is not necessarily considered a focus area for the more sophisticated types of cybercriminal activity such as targeted attacks or advanced persistent threats (APTs), less-sophisticated attackers learn from the more advanced attacks to enhance their own techniques, according to a recent Kaspersky report.

In the first half of the year in Africa, Kaspersky recorded 81 million cyberattacks in just three countries: Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya. It detected a 24.6% increase in cyberattacks in Nigeria, followed by South Africa with a 16.6% and Kenya with a 15.9% increase, according to the report.

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