Securing Africa’s cyberspace

Posted on November 26, 2015 12:00 am

African countries also need to review their technology capabilities in order to have the most advance and innovative defence strategies ready in the event of a breach.Cyberspace is critical to the much touted Africa’s economic prosperity and its security. For African countries, some of whom are world’s fastest growing to embrace the global digital revolution, it is imperative that the continent protect its cyberspace. The primary role of cyber security is to secure the backbone of continent’s information and telecommunication infrastructures.There is need to address the risks which comprised the networked information systems of ten critical sectors such as banking, defence, security,and finance, information, communications, energy, transportation, water, health, government, emergency services among many others. Need to ensure Africa Internet infrastructure is resilient to cyber threats should be addressed now rather than later to address the emerging issue of cyber threats which poses serious challenges to the economic well-being and security of the continent with more than 1 billion people. Cyber Security agencies across the continent should maintain portal which countries work together by sharing information on security issues which affect critical infrastructure.Businesses in Africa are facing a challenging era in information technology especially “The Internet of Things.”

“Internet of Things” is offering advanced connectivity of devices, systems, and services that goes beyond machine to machine communications such as interconnection of embedded devices including smart objects. A good percentage of Africans are aware of the risks and implications of IT security. Processes need to be constantly reviewed to take into account new security threats that develop every day.“Internet of Things” is slowly permeating every aspect of Africans everyday lives from smart home and office automation, security and surveillance, transportation and even healthcare through telemedicine and embedded devices. As Africans work and life become more connected and intertwined, “Internet of Things” will grow more entrenched. Industries as a whole will also benefit from the efficiencies of “Internet of Things” from more efficient supply chain management to real-time response to market intelligence.While “Internet of Things” is expected to usher in automation in unprecedented number of fields, the implications on cybersecurity are certainly many-fold. As it is, the transition from closed networks to enterprise IT networks to the public Internet is accelerating at an alarming rate. Nearly all devices and their data will need to be secured as cybercriminals will target every device to hack into. Indeed, the security challenges for “Internet of Things” are daunting.

Aerial view of Johannesburg, South Africa's.The country is the 2nd most affected by cybercrime in Africa after Nigeria
Aerial view of Johannesburg, South Africa’s.The country is the 2nd most affected by cybercrime in Africa after Nigeria

Cyberattacks have increased dramatically over the last three years in several African countries with Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya accounting for more than 70% of all Cyber crime activities in Sub Saharan Africa, exposing sensitive personal and business information, disrupting critical operations, and imposing high costs on the economy. According to a recent estimate, the cost to the African economy of cybercrime and online industrial espionage stands at US$3 a year, about as much as the GDP of Rwanda. So how can stakeholders make African a safer place to do business in order to propel us to be a developed nation by 2060 as envisioned by African Union? Disruption to Africa’s critical infrastructure, rising costs to business from cybercrime, theft of financial data and intellectual property will drive investment away from Africa whose systems are seen to be insecure. Crucial steps in establishing cross-border collaboration among African countries cybersecurity agencies is an important step in securing continent cyber space.

Africa’s increasing dependence on technology and connectivity makes the protection of connectivity a critical issue for all businesses and the continent need to look at organisation information security methodology from a holistic perspective and promote the adoption of security management systems , a systematic and structured approach to managing information so that it remains secure and implement policies, processes, procedures, organisational structures and software and hardware functions. To prepare a new holistic cybersecurity mind set in the era of “Internet of Things”,African countries must go back to the basic elements of process,technology and people. At the end of the day, it’s the people that harness the power of technology. Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility and each of African countries governments, the public, private sector and non-profit sectors need to play a vital role in making sure Africa’s cyberspace is safer, more secure and resilient.I can assure those in charge of cyber security that new and changing threats will keep on coming and they must always be vigilant as cyberattacks can strike anytime like it has been happening over the past four years. Securing cyberspace is not only a matter of Africa security, but it also defines continent’s competitive advantage in the World economy.

Contador Harrison