OP-Ed: Ransomware expanding to more regions, cyber security experts warn

As technology continues to provide a range of multi-sectoral solutions, it also becomes a threat. It is imaginable that in the next five years, you would use your phone as your door key, to turn on lights in the living room, to control temperature in your fridge or to execute a number of other household operations.

Now imagine what power anyone would have over you if he had to hack your phone and take the administrator position. Today in Kenya, world-famous for mobile money and mobile banking, the phone is applicable for a host of uses. Most banks have already connected accounts with the mobile money platforms with users able to deposit and withdraw money using their phones.

According to Central Bank of Kenya figures, mobile money transfers are as high as KSh4.3 billion daily (approx $50 million). More recently, a mobile service dubbed Mshwari was launched to allow M-Pesa mobile money users to borrow credit from the commercial bank of Africa.

It is then unimaginable as to what leverage any person holding your phone and who has the ability to crack your codes could have over you.

Ransomware currently involves hackers penetrating personal computers and locking them from a remote location as they demand a ransom for users to have access to their computers.

Probably, to many readers of this article, this is pure creative thinking. However, the scheme that has been ongoing in Eastern Europe for more than 3 years although it has since spread to the entire Europe and more recently the United States.

According to cyber security experts, Ransomware could be responsible for over $5 million (approx Kshs.430 million) wired to anonymous entities in 2011 globally and is fast growing.

In the United States, fraudsters formerly dealing in fake antivirus and Trojans are said to be slowly moving to Ransomware full time.

The experts say on average about 2.9 percent of users pay the ransom while in some countries, the rate could reach as high as 15 percent. Even more heartbreaking in most of the incidents, the computers are rarely unlocked by the said hackers.

Victims have said that the hackers have been posing as the FBI or the Justice Department in the US, while in other jurisdictions as the local police. The fraudsters go ahead and demand that users pay within 48 hours or face prosecution.

Antivirus software company says it has tracked over 16 Ransomware gangs in one instance, discovering that one gang had infected over half 1 million computers in less than 3 weeks.

With the world becoming more and more globalized, the security experts warn it is just an amount of time before they spread their vice globally.

They say law enforcement agencies must become share information more readily and fast warning that the culprits are skilled at destroying evidence.

With many companies especially in Africa still less equipped against the menace, one can only hope that CIOs are listening.

Posted in: Internet

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