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How COVID-19 has Changed the Shape of African Cybersecurity

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Jenna Delport
Jenna Delport
I’m a tech writer, world traveller, avocado-eater and dog lover, not always in that order.

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed how people live, work and approach security.

According to the 2020 KnowBe4 African Report – which collated insights from across South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Egypt, Morocco, Mauritius and Botswana – found that attitudes and behaviours had shifted as a result of the pandemic, but problem pockets of risk remain that need to be addressed in order to ensure both business and individual security.


“Nearly 50% of the respondents will continue to work from home; 24% indicated that they were affected by cybercrime while working from home, and only 30% believed that their governments prioritised cybersecurity in their policies,” says Anna Collard, SVP of content strategy at KnowBe4 Africa.

“This year, respondents were even more concerned about cybercrime compared with 2019, with the number rising by 10% to 47.61%. Across all eight countries, there’s a growing awareness of the risks that come with cybercrime.”

However, people are still taking unnecessary risks. Around 63.98% would give away their personal information if they believed that there was a need for it, or if they understood what it was being used for, which is a measured response in light of government and organisation requests for data to verify identity.

However, the concern lies in the 7% who would give away personal information if they got something back in return, like a discount, and the 6% who do it all the time.

This is supported by the fact that only 46% could define ransomware, nearly 20% have forwarded a spam or hoax email, 30% have clicked on a phishing email, 33.41% have fallen for a con artist or a scam, and 52.7% have had a virus on their PC.

“In South Africa, a worrying 31.5% thought that a Trojan virus encrypts files and demands payments, highlighting the need for training and education; especially considering that 40% of respondents think they would comfortably recognise a security threat if they saw one,” says Collard. “Most people don’t realise what a risky email looks like or how their actions could result in their systems becoming infected.”

Email security is one of the biggest threats facing the average user, both at work and at home, and it is one of the most common communication methods – nearly 87% use email for work, closely followed by WhatsApp at 85%.

For their private lives, WhatsApp is the most popular communication channel on the continent, with 96% of respondents chatting on it with their friends and families. Seventy-seven% reported the pandemic changed the way they work, with more than 50% changing this for the foreseeable future.

“For organisations, it has become critical that they train employees on security best practices and the various methodologies used by cybercriminals,” concludes Collard. “People need more help in learning about cyber threats, especially since 50% are continuing to work from home. Employee training is one of the most important defence mechanisms – employees need to learn how to spot social engineering and phishing attacks, understand why weak passwords put them at risk, and how multi-factor authentication works. They should also learn how to protect their home networks and what to do in the event of a security incident.”

Edited by Jenna Delport
Follow Jenna Delport on Twitter

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