Advanced, persistent threats continue to define SA digital security landscape

Johannesburg, 13 May 2024
Carey van Vlaanderen, CEO, ESET Southern Africa.
Carey van Vlaanderen, CEO, ESET Southern Africa.

Cyber criminals’ remarkable adaptability and relentless pursuit of new avenues to achieve their goals – be it through exploiting vulnerabilities, gaining unauthorised access, compromising sensitive information or defrauding individuals – shows no signs of abating, especially given the prevalence of AI. “Business cyber security needs will depend on how advanced and persistent threat (APT) groups adjust their strategies in today’s threat landscape. Fortunately, threat intelligence can help organisations to prioritise where to focus limited resources for maximum effect,” says Carey van Vlaanderen, CEO of ESET Southern Africa.

By collecting, analysing and contextualising information about cyber threats, including the most advanced ones, threat intelligence offers a critical method to identify, assess and mitigate cyber risk. “Our global threat reports have consistently highlighted significant cyber security incidents. With the rise of AI in mainstream applications, we've observed an increase in AI-enabled cyber attacks. These tools not only automate certain hacking activities, but also lower the technical barriers for cyber criminals,” notes Van Vlaanderen.

Along with criminals leveraging AI tools to create malicious code and legitimate-sounding e-mail messages, ESET pinpointed campaigns specifically targeting ChatGPT users and attempts to access malicious domains mimicking the name, such as ‘ChapGPT’.

“The advancement of AI in IT and its integration into business operations in South Africa is a significant industry development. ESET has long incorporated AI in its machine learning technology, recognising the great potential as well as the risks associated with this rapid technological advancement.”

Van Vlaanderen adds that there is a marked uptick in the sophistication of more common online scams, including crypto-currency romance schemes, OTP bot scams and business e-mail compromise (BEC) attacks. “Unfortunately, there’s little sign of attackers switching to other tactics, especially when malware-laden phishing links, e-mails and ransomware are so effective. This is why prevention in the form of multilayered protection technology is so critical for businesses and individuals alike.”

ESET’s recent introduction of patch management and VPN services for SME clients was a key milestone in creating a more secure environment for South African businesses, says Van Vlaanderen. “Despite a challenging local economic environment, we’ve enhanced our set of comprehensive security solutions to ensure the South African market benefits from our award-winning digital security. Rapid response measures can go a long way in minimising attack damage, safeguarding organisational safety and allowing businesses to focus on their core objectives.”

As we approach the latter half of 2024, Van Vlaanderen says managed detection and response (MDR) services will continue to gain prominence. MDR, the specialised service offered by external providers, is designed to help organisations proactively search for and respond to cyber security threats as soon as they are identified. “MDR tackles several key challenges faced by modern businesses at once, most especially the shortfall of in-house security expertise. Establishing and training dedicated security teams for continuous threat monitoring is possible for larger organisations with ample resources, but much harder for SMEs. Often, SMEs simply cannot maintain a dedicated team of skilled security professionals to monitor and manage the sheer volume of evolving threats.”

Van Vlaanderen says businesses of all sizes need to blend creativity and innovation to battle dynamic cyber threats. “Cyber criminals are well-resourced and rely on the element of surprise in their attacks. Utilising AI-native prevention and interactive risk analysis, enhanced by real-time global threat intelligence, allows organisations to stay ahead. In addition to greater awareness, having robust security solutions in place is the best way to prevent attacks from happening and help businesses build the necessary resilience they need for the future.”

ITWeb Security Summit 2024

ESET Southern Africa is a proud sponsor of the annual ITWeb Security Summit, taking place from 4-6 June at the Sandton Convention Centre. With leading industry speakers and dedicated specialist events over two days, the summit will delve into the latest cyber threats facing African CISOs, CIOs, security specialists and risk officers. The summit is a landmark event for information security professionals and will cover the latest emerging cyber security strategies, the techniques and solutions businesses need to protect their data and systems, as well as how best to ensure compliance and upskill cyber security teams. Register at to secure your seat today!