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West African Financial Institutions Hit by Cyber Attacks

Symantec Threat Intelligence: West African Financial Institutions Hit by Wave of Attacks

Symantec researchers have uncovered attacks on banks and other financial institutions in several West African countries by cyber criminals employing a range of commodity malware – readily available in the cyber underground – and living off the land tools that allow them to hide in a sea of legitimate processes. Until now, Symantec has seen relatively little evidence of these kinds of attacks against the financial sector in West Africa, but it now appears there is at least one group (and quite possibly more groups) actively targeting banks in the region.

The attacks have been underway since mid-2017 and have affected organisations in Cameroon, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Equatorial Guinea, and Ivory Coast. It is unknown who is behind these attacks which could be the work of a single group or, more likely, several different groups employing similar tactics to potentially perform financial fraud, steal network credentials and/or create remote access capability.

Figure 1: Countries where financial institutions have been attacked

Symantec observed distinct attack campaigns directed against financial targets in Africa that share commonalities in the tools and tactics employed. Off-the-shelf, commodity malware was used, adding a level of anonymity to attacks and making it harder to link attacks together or attribute them to any one group of attackers. Additionally, most of the attacks leveraged living off the land tactics, making use of legitimate tools such as PowerShell, PsExec, and RDP.

These attack campaigns were discovered through alerts generated by Symantec’s Targeted Attack Analytics which uses advanced AI to spot patterns associated with targeted attacks.

To read the full Threat Intelligence Report please go to


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