East Africans vulnerable to cyber hacking

October 21, 2014

East African tend to underestimate the importance of  information security, a recent computer security research covering the region show. There is a cliche in cyber security that says “Information is as valuable as your future,” and “You never know if the information about you today would be used against you some day.” It was crafted by European researchers who were concerned that information leaks in institutions and in individual’s personal life was occurring at an alarming rate in Europe. In their study few years ago, they said that those leaks could become weapons in cyber warfare as information becomes an increasingly important commodity. Information, according to cyber security experts I’ve spoke to before, can be used to defame or blackmail people. In Kenya, the report noted that there are close to three thousand scavengers earning their living by collecting all sorts of information and selling it to interested buyers. To prevent information leaks, the report recommends exercising caution when exchanging personal information on social networking sites. “There is a pattern in this cyber warfare in terms of national, political and individual interests,” report said.

In Uganda, the report said there were important public officials who have been targeted by blackmailers for past corruption crimes. They cited a graft case surrounding a ministry, which a blackmailing website uploaded personal information such as names, addresses and phone numbers to its website.The blackmailers said the move was needed in order to comply with existing law on freedom of information. However,computer security experts in Uganda were critical and said that kind of data could be misused for criminal purposes. “As a mother or father, East Africans should be worried that if they admit there children to a school, they would have to provide data about, residence, income,” and “that kind of information could be used for blackmailing or to kidnap someone’s child” said the report.Report also noted that network administrators across the region have yet to realise that all constitutions in the five member states of East African Community guarantee the rights of citizens to be protected by the state, and disclosing personal information could put someone at risk for identity theft or worse.What the regional court in Arusha, the headquarters of East African Community needs to define is if people are talking about the freedom of information, they must also classify which kind of information is liable to endanger people.

Your blogger believes that computer users should be very careful when sending financial information such as bank account numbers or personal identification numbers, and cellphone users should be cautious when sending sensitive information using text messages. Me thinks banking information or personal details could easily be intercepted or accidentally forwarded to an information scavenger or cracker.Having deep knowledge of the region, your blogger has seen many examples of institutional cyber security failures. For example, a national defense force has been providing detailed information on its operational bases equipment, and even sporadically posting images of weapons on its official twitter website. In addition to that, regional government officials continue to use e-mail accounts from public services such as Google or Yahoo which are vulnerable to hacking. Your blogger advises the East African Internet users to avoid becoming victims of cyber crimes by being aware of the potential dangers and exercise common sense when handling sensitive online information. They should use the cyber world to get information only, but not to disseminate it, especially when it comes to personal information otherwise they’d remain vulnerable to cracker’s activities.

Contador Harrison