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Insider cybersecurity incidents rise during Covid-19

The number of insider-related cybersecurity incidents in East Africa has increased by 55 per cent in the last three months as the Covid-19 pandemic forced employees to work remotely, a leading regional information technology firm has revealed.

According to systems integrator and services provider Dimension Data, companies with limited capacity to actively monitor their IT infrastructure have suffered as their staff transitioned to working from home, with a sudden spike in cybersecurity breaches resulting from attackers taking advantage of weak systems that are publicly available.

This has been compounded by most security controls designed to monitor and capture activities failing to keep up as they are intended for traditional on-premise infrastructure.

Consequently, this has left security control gaps as more employees remotely connect to company resources from mobile devices and external networks, with the financial services industry the most targeted sector because of the immediate monetary gain.

Speaking during the launch of Dimension Data Intelligent Security business in East Africa, the unit’s head, Ishmael Muli, said although insider threats are largely attributed to malicious employees and contractors, statistics from the company’s Threat Intelligence Centre show that most incidences in the region originate from employee negligence and other close associates ignoring corporate cybersecurity policies, misuse of data, and installation of unauthorized applications, among others.

“Across East Africa, we are seeing insiders take advantage of organizations that lack visibility or the ability to investigate successful cyberattacks due to limited access controls to detect unusual activity once someone breaches their network. Some of these attacks involve manipulation of transactional data, tampering of logs to limit tracing, as well as framing legitimate users - all of which make forensic investigations difficult,” Muli said.

“Cybersecurity plays a critical role for any business within emerging markets. We have built Dimension Data Intelligent Security to ensure that we offer world-class solutions to our clients, while making sure they suit the unique needs of our clients operating within these markets. Further to this, we have plans to focus on local skills development specifically in the threat intelligence space,” he added.

Muli indicated that the newly-launched Dimension Data’s Intelligent Security unites all the capabilities and security offerings previously managed by its subsidiary brands Dimension Data East Africa and Internet Solutions into one business and will offer world-class solutions from global partner NTT Ltd, whilst developing locally relevant solutions tailored for protecting organizations in East Africa.

Current attacks within East Africa are being linked to hackers employing smarter methods to distribute their server networks and occasionally purchasing command and control systems in other countries, with traffic being routed through myriad systems making it difficult to trace its origin.

Dimension Data asserts the Covid-19 crisis has seen an upsurge in the use of technology as many companies adopt work-from-home and bring-your-own device policies, increasing organizational risk as cyber security etiquette shifts to end users. As a result, the most prevalent attacks include phishing and social engineering.

With the trend set to continue as the volume of information insiders’ access, store and transmit rises – and remote working becomes the new normal, Mr. Muli advised organisations to invest in threat intelligence services to gain regular visibility of what is happening in their internal networks to automatically detect and remediate stealthy attacks that would otherwise be missed. He urged organisations to conduct insider risk assessments on their critical business functions that could be leveraged by Insiders for fraud.

He added that Dimension Data’s global integration with NTT Ltd allows for Dimension Data Intelligent Security to provide its clients with solutions that protect their businesses from noted threats all over the globe and harness key innovations from international markets.

At the same time, Dimension Data Intelligent Security is investing heavily in research to develop solutions that speak directly to the pricing, scaling and security needs of local businesses. 


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