ARE WE AWARE OF THE CYBER THREATS ON THE CONTINENT?

• Africa as a continent is gradually transitioning to a position where cyber crimes and attacks are virtually invading our cyber space. British consulting firm Ovumone has established that a billion people would have access to the internet by 2022 which is such a huge and significant figure amounting to almost 90% of the total population on the continent. Back in the day mobile phones were seen as ostentatious devices, the only people who had access to them were our parents but here we are today mobile phones have become necessities with some people possessing multiple devices. However, with this growing prosperity and digitization comes new risks and vulnerabilities that could undermine progress. The most important resource in the world now is information. Therefore, stringent measures must be put in place to protect data

Cyber-crimes cost the African economy $3.5 billion dollars in 2017 with Nigeria being the lead spender with $649 Million dollars. Between 2016 and 2018, Ghana lost over US$200 million to recorded cyber-crime cases according to the Ghana Police service and half of these reported cases were linked to fraud. This is a clear indication of the extent these cybercrimes and attacks cost the economy financially. All these cyber attacks are as a result of the high degree of digitization and technological advancement in the region. In South Africa, close to 86% of the total population use online banking services which makes them more vulnerable to cyber attacks as compared to regions that still use the traditional methods of banking. According to the Norton Cyber security insights report 2016, 8.8 Million South Africans were victims of online crimes out of the 602 Million reported cases across the globe.

• However, Majority of African countries still have not grasped how serious this invasion is and still consider cyber security a secondary threat. Some countries have little or zero budget allocated to cyber security. Some countries are making the efforts to deal with this canker. Through the formation of policies, drafting of cyber-crime laws and advocating for educational institutions to imbue basic cyber security tips in their students. As of 2018 Kenya’s new data protection bill was ready to be reviewed by its parliament, the bank of Ghana also issued cyber security directives to financial institutions. All banks are being compelled to appoint a cyber and information security officer to play advisory roles and also put in place measures to manage these threats.

• Amidst all these measures being taken by governments, what comes to mind next is how secure is the average African? The literacy rate in African countries is estimated at roughly 70% and with the widespread use of computers people are likely to be confronted with new techniques and equipment for which they may be quite unprepared for or have zero knowledge about. Many internet users are inexperienced and not technology oriented. The language option being English with respect to internet usage is also a barrier for most Africans and this is very crucial since most of the instructions and other contents are available in English only. Also, with respect to our educational system, computers are not being introduced in schools especially the public schools at early stages even though they study ICT. Some people were introduced to ICT when they entered senior high school because their previous schools especially the public schools did not have the facilities to teach the course.

• Most students have to go all the way to senior high school in order to have an introduction or in depth ICT lessons with complete access to computers so you realize there isn’t a strong foundation in ICT among these kids and they grow up with little or no IT knowledge. This makes them very vulnerable in their usage of devices as security precautions would be appreciated less. Even the experts seem to take precautions against these cyber threats and we recently saw the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg taping his webcam. This proves that no system is 100% secure.

• Globally, the number of new vulnerabilities identified in mobile software has grown massively. Smartphones are an increasingly attractive target for cyber criminals who are investing in more sophisticated attacks that are effective at stealing personal data or extorting money from victims. The ubiquitous nature of mobile phones in recent times has allowed African communications networks to leapfrog the entire landline generation of development and go directly to the digital age. Nevertheless, the steady rise of mobile malware that mainly targets Android systems is concerning given that 89% of the smartphone market share in Africa runs on that platform. Recently, some tech gurus noticed that WhatsApp has been infested with a virus(spyware) not from the software developers but from hackers. The spyware is able to infiltrate the app due to the phones running on operating systems. The spyware allows these hackers to see, read and listen to conversations without being noticed. And have advised people to consider telegram since it is more encrypted and secure.

• Cyberattacks on African economies are rising rapidly. However, there are many positive and encouraging signs. Cybersecurity legislation and enforcement measures in the continent are gradually improving. A variety of private sector initiatives have arisen that will help to strengthen the continent’s cybersecurity landscape. But more work still needs to be done to create awareness and equip internet and mobile phone users with security tips to protect them from these cyber attacks

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cyber crime & cyber security trends in Africa report , November 2016 edition

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Philip .K. Acheampong

Philip .K. Acheampong

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