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Kenya’s Fintech Sector Under Siege from Cyberattacks

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Kenya’s fintech sector is booming, but so are cybercriminals. The country was ranked 35th most cyber-attacked country globally in June 2023, with attackers targeting the financial sector and digital infrastructures.

Fintech companies are facing an increasing number of sophisticated attacks, ranging from phishing attempts and data breaches to ransomware campaigns. The Communications Authority of Kenya has said that the country has witnessed an alarming surge in cyberattacks, with a staggering 860 million incidents recorded in the past year.

Recent attacks have targeted Kenya’s digital infrastructure, affecting both public and private institutions, including Kenya Power and Lighting Company, Kenya Railways Corporation, and the National Transport and Safety Authority. Digital banking and mobile services have also been affected.

Experts say that fintech companies are particularly vulnerable to cyberattacks because they store sensitive financial data and rely heavily on technology. They also say that hackers are becoming more sophisticated and are developing new ways to breach systems and con customers into sharing personal data.

Fintech companies are taking steps to mitigate cyber risks, such as installing firewalls, creating data backups and encryption, reducing attack surfaces, and conducting regular employee cybersecurity training. However, the cyber security skills gap in Kenya continues to be a challenge, making it difficult for companies to find and retain qualified cybersecurity professionals.

The Kenyan government is also taking steps to address the cyber security threat, including partnering with various organizations, creating cyber security laws, and setting up a data protection office. However, more needs to be done to protect Kenya’s fintech sector from cyberattacks.

Some of the most common cyber threats facing fintech firms in Kenya include:

  • Phishing attacks: Phishing emails are designed to trick users into revealing sensitive information, such as passwords and credit card numbers.
  • Data breaches: Data breaches can occur when hackers gain access to a company’s computer systems and steal customer data.
  • Ransomware attacks: Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts a victim’s files and demands payment for the decryption key.
  • Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks: DDoS attacks overwhelm a website or server with traffic, making it unavailable to legitimate users.

Fintech firms are taking a number of steps to mitigate these risks, including:

  • Investing in cybersecurity technology and infrastructure
  • Conducting regular employee security training
  • Implementing strong authentication measures
  • Partnering with cybersecurity experts

However, the cybersecurity skills gap in Kenya remains a challenge. Experienced cybersecurity professionals are hard to find and expensive to retain. The Kenyan government is working to address this gap by partnering with various organizations and creating cybersecurity laws.

Despite the challenges, Kenya’s fintech sector is committed to cybersecurity. Fintech firms are aware of the risks and are taking steps to protect their customers and data.

Here are some additional tips for fintech firms in Kenya to protect themselves from cyber threats:

  • Keep software up to date: Software updates often include security patches that can help to protect against known vulnerabilities.
  • Use strong passwords and multi-factor authentication: Strong passwords are difficult to guess or crack. Multi-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security by requiring users to enter a code from their phone in addition to their password.
  • Be wary of phishing emails: Phishing emails are often designed to look like they are from a legitimate company. However, there are often telltale signs that an email is a phishing attempt, such as misspellings or grammatical errors.
  • Back up your data regularly: Having a backup of your data can help you to recover in the event of a cyberattack.
  • Have a cybersecurity plan in place: Your cybersecurity plan should outline how you will identify, respond to, and recover from cyberattacks.

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