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Protecting your business from cyber attacks

Written by Staff Writer

November 29, 2022


By Sinazo Mkoko

In terms of ransomware and business email compromise (BEC) attempts, South Africa ranks highest on the continent. This is according to the African Cyber Threat Assessment Report 2021 by Interpol. 

According to the report, the growing rate of digital transformation within the African region is facilitating the emergence of new attack vectors and opportunities for cybercriminals. The Executive Director of AFRIPOL, Tarek Sharif, said the African continent has huge potential in terms of information and communication technologies, because of the youth of its population. 

Interpol stated that research from a Kenyan IT cybersecurity company, Serianu, highlighted that cybercrime reduced GDP within Africa by more than 10%, at a cost of an estimated $ 4.12-billion in 2021. 

“More specifically, South Africa had 230 million threat detections in total, while Kenya had 72 million and Morocco 71 million. In South Africa, 219 million detections were related to email threats. South Africa also had the highest targeted ransomware and BEC attempts.

“The exploitation of these vulnerabilities within South Africa was further highlighted by Accenture, who identified that South Africa has the third highest number of cybercrime victims worldwide, at a cost of R2.2 billion a year. The scale of this cyber criminality is further evidenced when we consider that the country has seen a 100% increase in mobile banking application fraud and is estimated to suffer 577 malware attacks an hour. Such malware attacks are one of the emerging threats,” the report said.

Interpol’s strategy to fight cybercrime is based on three pillars, including raising awareness in the populations, the reinforcement of policy, treaty and common legislation to fight cybercriminals and the establishment of technologies on a national scale to reinforce cyber-defence.

Cyber protections bill proposal

The country’s official opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), is proposing a new bill to embed cyber protections in the country’s constitution. 

The proposed Constitution Eighteenth Amendment Bill will seek to amend Chapter 9 of the Constitution to provide for the establishment of a cyber commissioner’s office. According to the DA, the cyber commissioner will be tasked with supporting and strengthening constitutional democracy in South Africa by “advising, monitoring and establishing cyber security capabilities in the public sector and will work with tertiary institutions and the private sector to establish minimum good standards, build capacity and create awareness.”

The DA stated: “Cyber technology is increasingly central to government functioning and the provision of services to citizens. Proper cyber security is also fundamental to safeguarding many of the rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights and safeguarding our critical infrastructure and democracy.”

“At present, personal information of individuals in possession of state departments is also not sufficiently protected against cyber-attacks. These attacks place private and public information at risk, which results in state-owned entities and the economy losing billions of rands to cyber-crime.” 

The party further added that the state-owned entities currently tasked with addressing cyber-crime are chronically underfunded or lack proper expertise to perform their function adequately. “In addition, these entities are not sufficiently streamlined, and often operate in silos across Government Departments. It is further vital that an entity that is directly accountable to Parliament and not to the national executive be tasked with safeguarding such fundamental rights,” they said. 


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Based on input from the member countries in Africa and data drawn from Interpol’s private partners, the most prominent threats were identified as below.

Online Scams – For African member countries, the highest-reported and most pressing cyberthreat across the region was identified as online scamming. This threat seeks to target and take advantage of victims’ fears, insecurities, and vulnerabilities through phishing, mass mailing and social engineering. Member countries have reported a sharp increase in the number of online banking scams, including instances of banking and credit card fraud.

Digital Extortion – This threat is also identified as one of the most prominent cyberthreats within the region. Digital extortion seeks to target individuals with either allegations of sexually compromising images or through direct blackmail campaigns. While such threats are not new on the threat landscape, the move towards a digital society – particularly within the African region – has created new attack vectors for criminals to both obfuscate their identity and target new victims. 

Business Email Compromise – Alongside online scams, Business Email Compromise (BEC) was identified as a significant concern and threat to the region. Businesses and organizations that rely heavily on wire transfer transactions are vulnerable to this threat in Africa. The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to the increase in this type of cybercrime. > Ransomware – The threat of ransomware is expanding across the African continent. Allegedly, more than 61% of companies in this region were affected by ransomware in 2020 alone. 1 These attacks targeted some African countries’ critical infrastructure, including healthcare and maritime sectors. 

Botnets – Botnets are networks of compromised machines used as a tool to automate large scale campaigns such as DDoS attacks, phishing, malware distribution, etc. The number of botnet victim detections in Africa was around 50,000, with a monthly average detection of 3,900. In Africa, there have been numerous high-profile instances of such DDoS attacks on critical infrastructure within the past five years.

(Source: Interpol)

Sources: Interpol | Business Tech 

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