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Explained: How Ransomware Attacks Work, as KAA, Naivas Hit

Ransomware today is one of most prominent types of malware

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With cyberattacks on the increase in Kenya, businesses of all sizes face a range of attacks. Hits in the past month on Naivas Supermarkets and Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) have brought to the fore the threat of ransomware attacks, particularly on large organizations.

Both Naivas and KAA saw their data compromised after failing to meet the demands of the attackers. In the Naivas leak, data captured by the attackers exposed the supermarkets’ customers to more threats including phishing attacks as it includes sensitive customer information.  In the KAA leak, fears of security being compromised were abound as the hackers leaked several gigabytes of the authority’s data including layouts of airports, as well as confidential email conversations.

What Are Ransomware Attacks?

Ransomware is a type of malware designed to deny an individual or an organization access to their files. Attackers gain access to the files on a computer or shared server and encrypt them, denying a user or organization access to their data. They then demand a ransom payment in exchange for the decryption key, with the payment often made through cryptocurrency. In some cases, such as the Naivas and KAA ransomware attacks, they include an element of  data theft – providing greater incentive for victims to pay the ransom. In the KAA attack, the attackers demanded Ksh67.6 million while threatening to release the data, but KAA termed the data breach insignificant while failing to pay up.

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Ransomware today is one of most prominent types of malware. Across the world, attackers are targeting organizations including dating apps, ecommerce platforms, hospitals, insurers and medical companies and holding sensitive data hostage.

Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data indicates that cybersecurity advisories issued to companies increased by 3,693 percent from 81,727 in 2020 to 3.1 million advisories in 2021. The adoption of improved detection technology played a part.

Total cyber threats rose by 142 percent from 139.1 million to 339.1 million over the same period. Of the cyber threats reported, system vulnerabilities rose from from 114,675 in 2020 to 58 million in 2021. Reported Botnet/DDOs threats also increased from 4.1 million in 2020 to 92.1 million in 2021.

The consistent increase in attacks has been attributed to the growing number of cyber threat actors such as hacktivists, state-sponsored groups, organized cybercriminals, and cyber terrorists.

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