Rise of Cyber threats in East Africa must be addressed

Posted on June 16, 2013 12:03 am

East Africa is now a big target for cyber attacks thanks to its rapidly growing economies. There has been well documented and widely reported cases of significant financial losses and disruption to critical public and private infrastructures with banking industry being the hardest hit. Regionally, there is a continued rise of targeted attacks from well-oiled criminals and hackers. Over the past two years, East African region has become the most attractive investment destination in sub Saharan Africa. However, without adequate security, numerous studies have shown that investors rarely invest. That is why East African Community member states should focus on growing concerns about the threat posed by increasing cyber security challenges. Cyber security trends in East Africa evolve all the time, than other types of threats the region faces at the moment with exception of terrorists. Therefore, it is necessary East African countries keeps pace with the threat. Experts have expressed concerns about the growing threat of cyber crime in the region. The security chiefs in the region made it clear few months ago that cyber-security is a key problem that must be addressed.

In addition to that, there is need for collaborative exercise aimed at protecting information networks in governments and business entities conducting their business across the region and regions. Also, there is need to develop defensive capacities and regional economic block members should come up with an agreement to exchange information and help in the event of a cyber attack. Recent studies have noted that East African region have a special problem because some member states have little or no capabilities to tackle the cyber security problem. Burundi has minimal defenses while others, including Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania have committed enormous resources to tackle the problem but unfortunately, member states do not always share their expertise with least developed neighbors of Rwanda and Burundi. Adoption of the cloud and big data as has happened in Kenya, mobility and social media has greatly increased security risk. According to an expert I spoke to, the main areas where East African countries are suffering most include threats to valuable information such as intellectual property and research especially from state funded organizations and institutions. I strongly believe that continued disruption of financial services and other critical infrastructure as well as abuse of personal information for criminal purposes will no doubt reverse social economic gains made in the region.

Contador Harrison