Game on

A Crafty Cybercrime Gang Harvested Millions From Africa Unchallenged

By  |  November 11, 2022

It has been stated time and again that Africa is the weakest link in the global digital economy, thanks to the nascence of its tech ecosystem and the unavailability of internet protection policies and projects.

Last year, WeeTracker informed that due to the fast-paced digitization rate currently being witnessed in Africa, albeit with the lack of security solutions to safeguard the virtual economy, the continent has been thrown into the epicenter of a worldwide cyber pandemic.

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been numerous dubious orchestrations to make the most of the fact that more people are now using the internet and transacting online.

And indeed, cybercriminals have been at work. According to a just-released report by Singapore-based Group-IB, a cybersecurity specialist, and Orange CERT, the IT security arm of French telecommunications company Orange, hackers codenamed OPERA1ER breached banks and telecommunications providers in 16 countries, a handful of which are in Africa.

According to the research, an estimated USD 11 M was stolen from countries like Nigeria, Benin Republic, Ivory Coast, and Argentina in 2021. However, there are convictions that the siphoned amount could be up to USD 30 M.

OPERA1ER has been able to penetrate the systems of 16 African organizations at least 30 times since 2018. In one attack, the faceless group employed over 400 mule accounts to fraudulently withdraw sums of money. They typically deliver remote access trojans (RATs) using emails written in French to gather information about their victims before striking.

“Detailed analysis of the gang’s recent attacks revealed an interesting pattern in their modus operandi: OPERA1ER conducts attacks mainly during the weekends or public holidays,” Rustam Mirkasymov, head of cyber-threat research at Group-IB, said in a statement.

The African digital economy is expected to reach a worth of USD 180 B come 2025, but the region’s not-enough efforts to ward off cybercrime could hamper the growth.

Internet crime costs the continent no less than USD 4 B a year, with the global amount being USD 450 B. According to estimates, it costs South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya a yearly loss of USD 570 M, USD 500 M, and USD 36 M, respectively.

Per a 2021 Deloitte study, 40 percent of African companies have seen an increased number of cyber threats, and approximately 90 percent of businesses in the continent operate without critical cybersecurity protocols. Without protection, actors can easily exploit vulnerabilities and fashion new attack mechanisms.

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