Africa business face cyber security challenge

December 12, 2013

Over half of Africa’s small to medium businesses have no risk plan in place for combating cybercrime that could impact their business. African businesses have faced many challenges and the statistics suggest many are not prepared to handle runaway cyber related crimes. When it comes to preparing for the threat of cyber-attack on business data, African SMEs appeared to be more concerned, with businesses ranking the threat of cyber-attack. Most businesses are reported to back up files at least three to five times a year and very few are known to do it at least daily. Few businesses are known to back up their records using cloud technology. Cyber vulnerabilities at a small businesses in Africa, corporate and government level mean that valuable intellectual property and traditional national security secrets are being targeted, as can computer systems running critical infrastructure supporting the economy like telecommunications and banking with latter suffering more than any other sectors. In most instances crooks are targeting phone users through scam mobile money refunds and text messages.  To date, African businesses have failed to grasp the enormity of the misuse of technology and, as a result, have not viewed the problem as a major issue. That has highlighted cybercrime as both an individual and nation’s security issue.

Cybercrime in Africa is interlinked that, theoretically, a single mobile money transfer could be part of a larger, orchestrated attack on critical mobile network’s infrastructure. It’s essential for business operators to recognize that no matter how benign a mobile money transfer or banking scam may seem it is potentially malignant. Blame has usually been attributed to end users or government agencies, particularly security services and police. There are few calls for Internet service providers, online retailers, social network operators, software and hardware manufacturers and businesses in general to shoulder greater responsibility in providing safer services and educating end users. However, the end users and governments must scale up their efforts but there is need for a holistic approach addressing cyber security with measurable baseline data, broad strategies and a relentless long-term commitment to tackle the menace. Africa need properly qualified citizens who can be security cleared and called on to help the governments tackle the problem that is costing economies hundreds of millions of dollars per annum. The government should encourage a step change in the number of young Africans are studying mathematics, science, technology and engineering. Increasing the number of people focusing on cyber technologies at tertiary institutions and in the workforce will lead to a safer and more secure Africa and an expanded IT security industry would be good for the economy in what is a fast growing multi-million industry in the continent.

Contador Harrison