Cybercrime: “The criminal is as real as any mugger; you just can’t see them.”
Security experts and the heads of various financial watchdogs in African have cited cybercrime as a significant challenge as Internet use in the continent continues to grow fast. “Do not be overconfident Contador Harrison,” a Mauritius cybercrime expert told me on Tuesday. “Hackers in Africa are doing things just for the sake of it while others it has become their daily occupation.” He added that increasing popularity of mobile commerce in the region meant more electronic transactions were being made, affording an opportunity to hackers capable of exploiting security loopholes. A crime epidemic is silently sweeping the continent as criminals turn our ever-increasing dependence on mobile and other computing against us, and even the recent incidents have shown the security agents are not immune. Last month, Africa’s top law-enforcement officials concluded in the anti-cybercrime meeting, facing the stark and growing threat from an estimated $3 billion illegal business in the continent. In Mauritius, he shared with me a very shocking story how a wealthy businessman identity had been “stolen” to create two Facebook profiles and his pages were full of pornographic images. One of the impersonators used the fake profile to obtain information on his private details from his friend and the other targeted unsuspecting women whom he ended up raping and murdered one after she made contacts with police.
Few governments have bothered to combat Cybercrime that has emerged as a very concrete threat. Considering the anonymity of cyberspace, it may in fact be one of the most dangerous criminal threats the world will ever face. “Just imagine Contador Harrison the dramatic consequences of an attack, let’s say, on a country’s banking system.” African continent has received less scrutiny from cybercrime authorities after recent indicated that the region does not account for even 5% of cyber crime activities in the world but if the current trend pattern continues, Africa will become among one of the major source of hacking traffic in the world and the dubious tag is not necessarily instructive of continent possessing the growing number of cyber criminals today but in the near future. African hackers majority of them based in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria and Angola have found soft spots in Africa’s cyber security from which they can launch attacks. Multiple reports by financial services organizations have cited more than 10 million cyber attacks in Africa in the past five years, and said continent’s banking system needed to prioritize security. Africa’s increasingly important role in fighting terrorism makes cybercrime fight a priority. Recently, western governments have expressed interest in greater cooperation with African countries on cybercrime prevention. The number of Internet users in Africa is expected to double by the end of 2016 as smartphone proliferation continues throughout the sub Saharan Africa.
According to a recent report, almost two thirds of all mobile users in Africa have fallen victim to some sort of cybercrime, from SMS scams to having their mobile money accounts details stolen. Nigeria had the most cybercrime victims, at 76 percent of mobile phone users and 78 per cent of web users, followed by South Africa and Kenya. The study, of over 15,000 Internet users, also found that 93 percent of people believed the perpetrators would never be brought to justice. Fewer than half ever bother to report the crime to police. Two months ago, a cyber security first reported that it detects 20,000 cybercrime threats every single day in Lagos, Nigerian commercial capital. Undoubtedly, cybercrime is no longer just teens in their bedrooms sending out malicious e-mails or SMS scams but the gamers have upped their game and its now an organized crime. Studies in highly prone countries in Africa have shown that cybercriminals mainly trade in data stolen, often unnoticed, from a victim’s mobile or computer, Mobile money account details, Phone numbers especially in East African countries of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania where for instance, are sold on the black market for between $10 and $20. Identity and personal information theft is a big problem in those countries than anywhere else in the world. For example in Kenya, the crime pattern research shows that if the criminal knows a person makes a lot of transactions through mobile money commonly known as M-Pesa, the value of that person’s information can be worth a lot more.