African countries must deal with Cyberterrorism

Posted on April 3, 2013 09:01 am

Cyberterrorism has become an internal and external security threat and now it has been incorporated into industrial espionage by rogue states. When countries security apparatus details are breached, state officials issues statements vehemently denying any sensitive file had been compromised. Some African countries have seen such attacks over the last few years on their critical installations in countries like South Africa, Angola and Nigeria. In Kenya, the misuse of social media and Internet has brought home the threat of Cyberterrorism, which country’s Cybersecurity experts say the country is poorly equipped to handle. During the just concluded national polls, the supporters of Jubilee presidential candidate Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta exchanged insults and tribal abuse with CORD presidential candidate Raila Odinga.Analyst believe Kenya with other African countries are vulnerable to such attacks and vested interest groups bent on spreading hatred and destruction as we have witnessed in various parts of Africa.

Aerial view of Nairobi, the capital of Kenya where Cybercrime incidents are rising
Aerial view of Nairobi, the capital of Kenya where Cybercrime incidents are rising


Generally, most sub Saharan Africa countries lack institutions and mechanism of a Cyberarmy to deal with the threat. The breaches are a case of Cyberwar attack rather than average hacking activity.This has been the case in countries like South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya, the three leading countries in Internet usage in Sub Saharan Africa. Cyberwarfare is a relatively new phenomenon that has not been adequately covered under their respective countries Cyberlaw. Over the last few years, African countries have witnessed a growing number of Cyberassaults, with various governments particularly trade and defense establishments and coming under attack. Last year, an amateur hacker who turned out to be a student carried out a series of attacks against over 100 Kenyan government websites, without any basis or grounds for retaliation against such a humble African country.Until this day, the threat landscape remains very threatening to Kenyan neighbors like Tanzania and Uganda. African Union should sensitize its member states to the global threat of Cyberwarfare now not tomorrow. Most African countries Cybersecurity is ineffective. In my previous studies, Cyberattacks in Africa normally follow similar modus operandi. A study I conducted in four African countries sometimes back, I realized that emails are sent to an individual and in some other cases a small group, within an organization.

The attackers makes the email look very legitimate by ensuring it appears as though it was sent by somebody the recipient trusts and the content of the mail will often be related to the recipient’s area of interest. The user is then tricked into either clicking a malicious link or launching a malicious attachment.In the more advanced attacks, the attacker send email attachments which when opened exploit vulnerabilities in web browsers.  African governments must put in place national cyber security architectures to prevent their growing economies sabotage as well as curb industrial and trade espionage together with other forms of Cyberattacks.  In Africa, motivation of attackers has moved from fame to financial gain and malware has become a successful criminal business model like Rwandan banking sector has discovered with millions of dollars in play. These attacks need proactive measures by African governments and collective effort in policies. As we all know, Internet has no geographical boundaries. The same can be said of Cyberterrorists and therefore time to view the problem as a developed world one has to end. The attacks threats are real and time for action is now.

Contador Harrison