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Rising Cybersecurity Threat Calls for Strategic Realignment in the Public Sector

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Africa’s Cybercrime landscape is a cause for great concern. In Interpol’s latest African Cyberthreat Assessment Report clearly indicates the rising threat of cybercrime for governments. The rapid advancement and interconnectivity of technology is a breeding ground for complex attacks and criminals are exploiting new methods of infiltration in order to access confidential data and sensitive information. Safeguarding public entities from further harm is a non-negotiable.

Ransomware attacks on public sector entities have crippled major operations and systems incurring exorbitant losses. According to Interpol’s report, the impact of malicious programs should not be underestimated.


The proliferation of ransomware has resulted in a rise in financially motivated cybercrime activities across Africa. This increasingly severe threat will be addressed at the upcoming Public Sector Cybersecurity Summit on 3 October 2023 (#PubliSec2023) in Johannesburg South Africa.

Shadowserver also reported that South Africa is the nation most targeted by ransomware attacks, accounting for 42% of all detected attacks. Morocco is next with 8%, Botswana and Egypt at 6%, Tanzania and Kenya each account for 4% of detected ransomware attacks.

The data presented in the report goes into great detail about the cyber threat trends in the African region. Here are some of the most prolific cyber threats outlined from the report in the African region:

Business Email Compromise:

Campaigns infiltrating company emails continue to be the most prevalent leading to major losses. It has proven to be low-risk, but most profitable for cybercriminals. Cybercriminals behind BEC are becoming more sophisticated and are using highly technical tools to carry out fraudulent activities.

Phishing: 

Phishing is a growing concern in Africa due to the rapid adoption and use of digital technologies. As more people are turning to online services and applications, they are becoming increasingly vulnerable to phishing attacks.

Ransomware Attacks:

Ransomware attacks are one of the most prominent forms of cybercrime that specifically targets public sector institutions. Critical infrastructure including the energy and transportation sectors have been targeted. 

Banking Trojans and Stealers:

This form of cyberattack is an imminent threat to online shoppers, as well as damaging confidence in online financial payments. It is easy to obtain different kinds of Trojans and Stealers on underground forums, which makes it easy for cyber-criminals to launch malicious campaigns. Evolving functionalities make it even more challenging for law enforcement agencies to investigate these crimes.

Online Scams: 

Online scams continue to escalate as internet access becomes prevalent. This problem is compounded by victims’ poor levels of digital literacy, which makes them easy targets for cyber criminals who lure them in with false promises that will ultimately cost them financially.

Cyber Extortion:

Cyber Extortion will still need to be monitored in the years to come and goes hand in hand with the proliferation of the Internet and mobile technologies, as more people are susceptible to demands for financial payments and extortion.

Crippling Ransomware Attack on SA’s Department of Justice

One of the most notable ransomware attacks to hit South Africa involved the public sector, targeting the SA Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.

The ransomware attack at the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJ&CD) in 2021, potentially breached over 1,200 confidential files containing personal information. 

The breached data reportedly included the full names, banking information, and contact details of clients using DOJ&CD’s services. The cyberattack caused a delay in child maintenance payments and other critical systems.

As indicated in the incident, the limitless nature of cybercrimes and their ability to access and share information makes the threat far worse than one could imagine.

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