Home Opinion Online bullies target high profile victims in Kenya   -Study

Online bullies target high profile victims in Kenya   -Study

The report further adds that the crooks are becoming smarter and choosy, as online bullies only aim for high-profile victims.

by Kwabe Ben
online bullies

 Tales of people who have been forced to close down their Facebook and Twitter accounts are commonplace. Many of the victims cite harassment, loss of money to strangers as well as trampling of the privacy of people they met online.

According to a recently released report, online criminals are on the prowl in Kenya notwithstanding arrests and convictions that have been reported in the media.

The report further adds that the crooks are becoming smarter and choosy, as online bullies only aim for high-profile victims.

In their 2023 Annual Cybersecurity Report, researchers from Trend Micro, a leading outfit in the field note that criminals are opting for quality over quantity, seeking higher returns from fewer, more valuable targets in Kenya.

“We blocked approximately 37 million email threats, over half a million malicious Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) in the country,” says Gareth Redelinghuys, Country Managing Director for the African Cluster at Trend Micro during a recent media interview.

During the same period, according to the report, more than one million malicious mobile apps directed at Kenyan businesses and consumers were also saved from falling victims. This shift indicates that cybercriminals are opting for quality over quantity, seeking higher returns from fewer, more valuable targets.

“Our latest data shows that threat actors are fine-tuning their operations, shifting away from large-scale attacks, and instead focusing on a smaller range of targets but with higher victim profiles for maximum gain with minimum effort,” noted Redelinghuys in a statement to the media last week.

Even as Trend Micro protected Kenyans from hundreds of ransomware attacks, the overall trend shows a decrease in the number of such attacks. The nature of these attacks has evolved, becoming more sophisticated and harder to detect.

To achieve their evil schemes, the cybercriminals use advanced techniques to avoid being detected, such as Living-Off-The-Land Binaries and Scripts, which use non-malicious files native to operating systems to camouflage their activities.

Global ransomware detections have seen a significant drop from 2021 to 2023, averaging less than half the detections recorded in 2020. However, this decline should not lead to complacency among security teams, as the reduction in volume does not equate to a reduction in threat severity.

The report also highlights an increase in Trojan FRS threats globally, suggesting that attackers are becoming more adept at bypassing initial detection measures. In 2023, several ransomware families exploited remote and intermittent encryption, as well as unmonitored virtual machines, to bypass Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) systems. By using less content during encryption, these attacks minimize the chance of triggering detection mechanisms.

Prominent ransomware groups such as Clop and BlackCat were particularly active last year. Clop exploited major vulnerabilities, while BlackCat launched a new variant and leveraged regulatory requirements to pressure victims into quicker responses.

Email threats in Kenya have also seen a shift towards more sophisticated methods. Although email threat detections decreased from over 66 million in 2021 to 37 million in 2023, the rise in malware detection suggests a strategic shift by attackers. Rather than indiscriminately targeting large numbers of users, cybercriminals are now conducting more targeted operations, such as Business Email Compromise (BEC) schemes, which are designed to appear legitimate and evade scrutiny.

“IT leaders must refine their processes and protocols to combat these persistent and increasingly sophisticated attacks with efficiency,” urged Zaheer Ebrahim, Solutions Architect for the Middle East and Africa at Trend Micro.

“As attacks become more difficult to detect, the cost of successful breaches will rise,” added Zaheer.

Kenya has a law that protects its citizens from all kinds of online harassment. It is called the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act 2018 and was in April, after revision, approved by The National Assembly as Computer Misuse and Cybercrime (Critical Information Infrastructure and Cybercrime Management) Regulations, 2024.

Trend Micro is a global cybersecurity leader dedicated to making the world safe for the exchange of digital information. With a robust platform that protects millions of individuals and thousands of organizations across various environments, Trend Micro leverages decades of security expertise, global threat research, and continuous innovation to deliver advanced threat defense techniques optimized for clouds, networks, devices, and endpoints.

By Henry Mangome I sciencejournalist2021@gmail.com

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