Business 28 September 2018Dennis Wafula
Crypto in Africa: New intercontinental payment methods poised to overtake US dollar
The U.S. dollar is reported to be losing its place as the top intercontinental currency in Africa. This is according to SWIFT, the global provider of financial messaging services. African usage of the U.S. dollar dropped from 50% in 2013 to 45.1% in 2017, and this is attributed to citizens switching more to local currencies and mobile payments (possibly including cryptocurrencies) to handle international transactions. It’s difficult to say how much of such payments were made through cryptocurrencies, but the 6.4% of mobile statistics clearly means they were government-approved currencies without actual intrinsic value.
It has been reported that African countries have been gradually adopting blockchain and crypto technologies over the past few years. GSM Association estimates that Africa will likely have 725 million mobile phone subscribers by 2020, which, in turn, can boost cryptocurrency adoption in the region. SWIFT noted that with mobile money and other digital financial services, people can store money securely, spend it effortlessly, and afford the small fees charged by their providers.
The U.S. dollar has been replaced chiefly by the South African rand and the West African franc as the leading inter-country exchange currency in Africa. The franc commands 7.3% of such payments, up from 4.4% in 2013. The rand has moved up from 6.3% to 7.2% in usage. The British pound has spiraled downwards too, from 6.2% to 4.6% of such transactions.
Africa hit by crypto mining USB malware infections
Kaspersky recently published a Lab Review of USB and removable media threats in 2018 that showed Africa as one of the most affected regions by crypto mining-related USB malware infections.
Crypto mining malware have been harnessed by cyber attackers as an effective and persistent distribution vehicle for spreading malware between unconnected computers. The toll on victims has been on the rise, given that emerging markets—where USB devices are more widely used for business purposes—are the most vulnerable to malicious infection spread by removable media. Such markets are especially prevalent in Africa, Asia and South America.
Isolated hits were also detected in countries in Europe and North America. An example is Radiflow, specializing in SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition), which saw its servers suffer malware infection.
Despite the fact that USB devices are less effective at spreading infection than in the past due to growing awareness of their security weakness and declining use as a business tool, they remain a significant risk that users ought not to underestimate. Attackers still continue to find exploits and some infections go unnoticed for years. USB devices have been around for over two decades and have acquired a reputation of beingvulnerably to cybersecurity threats.
According to Kaspersky Security Network, KSN data, a popular crypto-miner malware detected in drive-roots is Trojan.Win32.Miner.ays/ Trojan.Win64.Miner.all, known since 2014. The Trojan drops the mining application onto the PC, then installs and silently launches the mining software and downloads the requirements that enable it to send any results to an external server controlled by the attacker.
Infections have been reported to grow via removable media unnoticed and continually year-after-year with detections of the 64-bit version of the miner growing by around a sixth, increasing by 18.42% between 2016 and 2017, and expected to rise by 16.42% between 2017 and 2018.
Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (SegWit) chain are referenced as BTC coins; tokens on the Bitcoin Cash ABC chain are referenced as BCH, BCH-ABC or BAB coins.
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