Increasing cyber-attacks target Ethiopia

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So far, a catastrophic cyber-attack has been avoided, as digitalization grows however cyber security will be crucial.

Ethiopia has experienced a spike in cyber-attacks, including ransomware and malware infiltrations. The surge in cyber-attacks have mostly come from outside of the country according to Kaspersky Global Research and Analysis Team. The group indicates Ethiopia has become a prime target for cyber criminals.

Kaspersky Global’s head of META research, Amin Hasbini says “unauthorized access, control systems, or execution of malicious code are on a rise, through ransomware software that encrypts victims’ files or systems, demanding a ransom payment in exchange for the decryption key.

Specifically in April, and May 2023, traces from Kaspersky Global Research underground monitoring team, pointed out a hacker team called Mysterious Team Bangladesh (MTB) targeted the online servers of at least ten Ethiopian governmental, energy and banking institutions which distributed denial of service attacks. No clear identity for MTB was given, however one cannot rule out the group is working for hire.

Ransomware and malware in Ethiopia started to be noticeable around 2018. According to a Microsoft Security and Intelligence Report, Ethiopia was among the five locations with the highest average monthly ransomware encounter rates in 2018 were Ethiopia (0 77 percent average monthly ransomware encounter rate), Mongolia (0 46), Cameroon (0 41), Myanmar (0 33), and Venezuela (0 31), each of which had an average monthly ransomware encounter rate of 0 31 percent or higher during the period.

Malware Infection rates tend to correlate strongly with human development factors and technology readiness within a society. All of the locations with the highest encounter rates in 2018 ranked in the bottom 40 percent of countries and regions in the 2017 Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) Index, published by the United Nations International Telecommunication Union (ICT)

As Ethiopia continues forward with its ambitious digitalization programs, the likelihood of breach is increasing. Abuses of software vulnerabilities or weaknesses that are leveraged by attackers to gain unauthorized access will need to be proofed with better cyber security and monitoring.

While a few cyber-attacks came from within Ethiopia, a large majority came from outside the country. In 2023 alone, Ethiopia witnessed about 18,000 verified attacks and 30,000 ransomware. This is a big jump compared to 5586 cyber-attacks reported in 2021/2022. By enlarge, these attacks sought to take down the online services of business as well as government entities, blocking users and clients from accessing them, sometimes for hours and up to days or weeks,” Amin elaborated. The Ethiopian Information Network Security Agency (INSA) said “it foiled more than 97 percent of all cyber-attacks.”

According to media report, INSA says in 2022, the cyber-attacks had targeted financial institutions and mega projects, including computer systems of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which downstream countries, particularly Egypt and Sudan, fear will eventually diminish their historic water shares from the Nile River. Other underground traces pointing to Ethiopian organizations and users being targeted with different kinds of cyber threats, such as ransomware, personal data theft or data leaks, have also been seen.

The reoccurrence and increasing frequency of cyber-attacks in Ethiopia since 2020 were somewhat expected. The country’s recent political and security turmoil has created a conducive environment for malicious cyber actors to be employed by foreign powers. Political actors and regional foes will be keen to use cyber-attacks, particularly against state entities. So far, a catastrophic cyber-attack has been avoided, as digitalization grows however cyber security will be crucial.

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