While analysing the threat landscape of African countries, Kaspersky experts saw a steady decline in attacks on mobile devices in the region, as cybercriminals consolidated their efforts to focus on more complicated, dangerous and profitable threats instead. These and other findings were featured in Kaspersky’s Mobile Threats in 2021 report.

Overall, in 2021, South African users faced 38 per cent fewer mobile malware attacks than in 2020, while other countries in the region have seen even more dramatic changes in their mobile threat landscape: Mozambique saw a 48 per cent decrease, followed by Botswana (58 per cent), Nigeria (59 per cent), Ethiopia (69 per cent) and Ghana (76 per cent).

The report noted that the only country where the share of attacks increased was Angola, where mobile malware actually grew by 12 per cent.

Kaspersky said this dynamic is a reflection of the global trend, as cybercriminals tend to invest less and less into the mainstream threats that are successfully neutralised by modern security solutions.

“Instead, they choose to invest more into new mobile malware that has become increasingly complex, featuring new ways to steal users’ banking and gaming credentials, as well as other strands of personal data. For instance, in 2021, Kaspersky detected more than 95,000 new mobile banking Trojans in the world, but the number of attacks using such malware remained similar. Additionally, the share of Trojans – malicious programmes capable of executing remote commands – doubled, reaching 8.8 per cent in 2021,” it stated.

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In addition to the strategic changes on the mobile threat landscape, experts also attributed the overall decline of mobile malware in 2021 to the enormous wave of attacks seen at the beginning of lockdown in 2020 as users were forced to work from home. That period also saw increased use of various video conferencing and entertainment apps, increasing the volume and spread of attack opportunities. Now that the situation has stabilised, cybercriminal activity declined as a result.

Security Researcher at Kaspersky, Tatyana Shishkova, said: “Indeed, there have been fewer mobile attacks in general, however, the attacks we are still seeing have become more complex and harder to spot. Cybercriminals tend to mask malicious apps under the guise of legitimate applications, which can often be downloaded from official app stores. On top of that, with mobile banking and payment apps becoming even more widespread, there is a higher chance of cybercriminals targeting these more actively.

“Staying cautious and careful on the Internet and avoiding downloading unknown apps is good practice, but I also strongly recommend using a reliable solution. When it comes to the security of finances in particular, it is better to be safe than sorry.”

To be protected from mobile threats, Kaspersky recommended that it is safer for one to download apps only from official stores like Apple App Store, Google Play or Amazon Appstore.

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Kaspersky said apps from these markets are not 100 per cent failsafe, but at least shop representatives check them and there is some filtration system — not every app can get onto these stores.

According to it, “check the permissions of apps that you use and think carefully before permitting an app, especially when it comes to high-risk permissions such as Accessibility Services. The only permission that a flashlight app needs is to the flashlight (which doesn’t even involve camera access).

“A reliable security solution helps detect malicious apps and adware before they start behaving badly on your devices. Conveniently, you can get protection, like Kaspersky consumer products, directly from mobile operators.

“If you are a business, consider taking a holistic approach to the protection of your security perimeter, selecting the most appropriate one for your company. iPhone users have some privacy controls provided by Apple, and users can block app access to photos, contacts and GPS features if they think these permissions are unnecessary.

“A good piece of advice is to update your operating system and important apps as updates become available. Many safety issues can be solved by installing updated versions of software.”

Kaspersky called on the mobile industry to enhance cyber protection at all levels, including security for their users, by providing tailored cybersecurity services.