Cyber Security: African Union head of States summit of 2014 plan to mitigate the vice

September 12, 2013

African government have unveiled legislation proposal on the best way to crack down on cybercrime in the wake of recent cyber attacks on regional companies and financial institutions especially the commercial banks. Those familiar with regional matter definitely knows that cybercrime is a growing threat to individuals, businesses and governments and with the new found region’s resource industry said to be suffering from multiple hacking attempts from offshore crooks who perhaps are interested in cutting deals through the backdoor.  The increasing cyber threat means that not a single country in Africa can effectively overcome the cyber security menace and regional cooperation is essential and laudable.
The proposed laws, once passed by continental assembly headquartered in Ethiopian city of Addis Ababa will give regional and individual member states of African Union’s police and intelligence agencies the power to access information from Telecom operators, banks among others that would help combat the crime.

There are calls by stakeholders who fear that the region is being turned into a den of cyber crooks that local Police should derive ways on how to conduct campaigns to the innocent and less aware African public that could go towards helping improve awareness about the dangers of cybercrime, in particular prostitution and human trafficking that recently saw Uganda Police unravel a cartel involved with the racket of taking Ugandans to India with false promises. I can only appreciate the Uganda Police efforts and their pledge to the pearl of Africa’s estimated 35 million people that they would intensify their surveillance of cyberspace to anticipate crimes conducted through social networks such as Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter and Google + to mention but a few. This year has seen Police in Kenya and Uganda bust prostitution ring conducted through Facebook and in Kenya the police arrested a Swedish citizen who was conducting pornography business in the Kenya’s coastal city of Mombasa, a well-known and popular tourism destination. Kenyan Police said the man had recruited more than ten college students to become prostitutes and blue film actress drawing ire from largely conservative Kenyan population.

In 2012 alone the security authorities received over 1,000 reports of cyber crime practices in the five East African countries combined.
With the growing popularity for a number of social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, Google + and Whatsapp along with limited knowledge of Internet usage, online fraudsters from western countries and Asia are fast extending their cyber crime tentacles with non existent and virtual operations on social media outlets. Few months ago, Ugandan Police arrested a con man, a West African country national managed to fraud millions of Ugandan shillings using one of the social media as a platform. The crook used a fake identity and used his honeyed tongue to convince his victims to transfer huge sum of money through the popular mobile money transform. The grim statistics from Africa shows that most of the reported cases on cyber crime practices it is clear that most of the victims were old, uneducated, women and even children.
A research conducted few months ago indicated wealthy uneducated women and men are more prone and in various well documented cases it was established they are easy to be influenced psychologically.

Another report conducted earlier this year, researchers revealed that women and aged folks are the most targeted by fraudsters because most of them lack enough information on how to protect themselves from cyber crooks some of who come from far as Eastern European countries of Bulgaria and Romania. It is necessary for African governments and agencies involved in ensuring a smooth and secure online environment for all to routinely provide adequate information on how to avoid fraud. Africans should also ensure there are not easily conned to accept empathy for people they rarely know and strangers. Multiple studies have shown that most young people in the region want to get rich quickly. It is important to all Internet users to put good use of their logic and conduct much more thorough research before trusting a stranger’s email or phone call. African countries law enforcement agencies should also aim at strengthening cooperation with cybercrime agencies in other African continental bodies and more advanced western world counterparts which will give the investigating and security agencies access to information stored outside the region when investigating crimes regionally committed through the internet.

All stakeholders would agree with that African countries must initiate appropriate and effective arrangements domestically and regionally to be in the best possible position to fight cybercrime and cyber security threats. Some well-oiled African countries are said to be developing cyber defense strategies to enhance their capabilities to combat and curtail hacking activities as well as thwarting electronic espionage. The African ICT ministers blueprint strategy will be ready for next year’s African Union head of states summit. In East Africa, just like other Africa region banks have been experiencing a sustained wave of attacks on more than 50 of them and over 200 non financial organizations with cases of bringing down computer networks being mentioned in researcher’s circle as a daily activity. One can only hope that the proposed cybercrime laws will help the region join international community on tackling the problem that was said to have caused more than $70 million losses to the region in 2012.

Read my IDG published article on why African Union should act on cyber security sooner rather than later on : http://www.idgconnect.com/blog-abstract/613/contador-harrison-africa-african-union-act-reduce-cyber-crime

Contador Harrison