African countries urgently need ‘cyber cops’

May 29, 2014

A new study has found that thousands of cyber criminals most of them university graduates are terrorizing millions of innocent Africans online every month. According to the study, an identity is stolen every two minutes in Africa’s cyberspace and a cyber-crime takes place every hour in sub Saharan Africa. There’s always a three-fifth chance of someone becoming a victim of cyber-criminals, warns the report. Personal identities in various forms are worth tens of thousands of dollars if not hundred which is why there is a fast-expanding Africa underground economy for e-mails, mobile money transfer and bank accounts once they have been stolen by cyber-criminals. The report cites a case in one East African country where a criminal tricked a 46 years old woman into revealing the password of her mobile money account unwittingly and then re-setting that password to prevent her from accessing that account again. That mobile bank account which had more than $700 was sold in the underground economy to a criminal organization run by ex convicts working in cahoots with corrupt police officers.

A stolen mobile money account can now be sold for US$1,000 with a cloned identity. SIM card details according to the study are cheaper and are worth half the value of the money in the card but the business of withdrawing the cash is for card buyer but price goes up and down according to demand and supply. This underground economy is now probably even bigger than the narcotics trade that was last year described as alarming. In other words, cyber-crimes are serious and can affect anyone as millions of people in Africa are now using the platform. Technically, criminals need to write and rewrite new and unique pieces of identities to stay under the radar of the signatures for as long as possible. However, this method would become quite ineffective if the very uniqueness of a document and its attributes can be used to help identify the new mobile money account holder. Cash strapped security agencies in Africa need experts to fight cyber and mobile money criminals and the recruitment of young technical officers would be a first step. What most people fail to appreciate is that there is no time zone in cybercrime world. The report also reveals that nine in every 10 Africa Internet users are victims of cybercrime ranging from viruses and malwares, identity theft, bullying, SIM card fraud and pornography. Africa was early this year tagged as among the top favorites of criminals engaged in mobile money theft and there is no doubt ‘cyber cops’ have their work cut out.

Contador Harrison