Kenyans are being urged to be vigilant as data from a Netherlands-based virtual private networks firm, Surfshark, reveals a worrying trend: online account breaches in the country have skyrocketed over the past year.

The report indicates that Kenya has seen a staggering 667 per cent increase in account breaches, jumping from 4,701 in the first quarter of 2022 to a concerning 78,663 in the first quarter of 2023.

This surge places Kenya among the most affected countries in Africa concerning online account security.

"A breach occurs when an online account has been accessed without the owner's permission," the report clarifies.

These breaches can be caused by various factors, including weak passwords, falling victim to phishing scams, malware unknowingly installed on devices, or even large-scale data breaches on popular platforms.

Looking at the bigger picture, the report highlights that Kenya has witnessed a total of 5.8 million account breaches over the past two decades, translating to approximately 4,035 incidents per 100,000 people.

Notably, the most significant breach occurred in June 2020 when hackers compromised the Wattpad database, a platform for user-generated stories.

This attack exposed over 727,000 Kenyan accounts as Wattpad, once ranked 150th most visited website globally, held data for over 270 million users.

However, Kenya is not alone in facing this challenge. According to Surfshark's data, South Sudan tops the list with a staggering 89.4 million breaches over 20 years, followed by South Africa at 34.6 million.

Other African countries significantly impacted include Egypt (22.6 million), Nigeria (19.3 million), Morocco (16 million), and Algeria (10.4 million).

While neighbouring countries like Tunisia share Kenya's figure of 5.8 million breaches, Ghana and DR Congo reported 4 million and 3.5 million compromised accounts, respectively.

The report emphasizes the urgency of robust data protection measures across Africa.

"Although Africa's share of global breaches is relatively low," it states, "the potential harm is significant. These breaches pose serious privacy, financial security, and national safety risks."

Kenyans are advised to remain cautious online, implement strong passwords, and be wary of suspicious emails or links.

Familiarizing oneself with the new cybercrime regulations for data centres, as highlighted in the report, can also contribute to a more secure digital environment.