Terrorism Financing in Africa

Posted on February 21, 2016 01:45 am

According to security experts, there have been many indications that terrorists in Sub Saharan Africa are very resourceful in funding their activities through the use of IT. Hacking for money is now considered as a common method of obtaining funds for terrorist financing. In fact, police investigations in several countries have revealed that some of the recent terror attacks were allegedly funded at least in part by online fraud.It is worrying to see that what at first seems to be a mere financial crime may turn into a life threatening offense such as terrorist attack. In some terrorist attacks, fraud is a predicate offense to other crimes. A report on the money laundering and terrorist financing threat released last year suggested that in many jurisdictions there seems to be an increase in Internet based fraud and other uses of Internet technologies in fraudulent activities.The survey also revealed that fraud, trafficking in narcotics, cigarettes, weapons, human beings or minerals and petty crime are the most common sources of terrorist financing. Additionally, according to the study, legitimate sources of funds such as charities, non profit organizations and small cash intensive businesses are also commonly used for supporting terrorism as Kenyan government crackdown last year of such organizations revealed.A recent report revealed that cybercrime is one of the top four types of reported economic crime in Sub Saharan Africa. The results from this offense include financial loss, reputation damage and loss of personal identifiable information,among others. On the other hand, study also found that most senior people in organizations are not placing enough emphasis on the importance of managing cyber-crime threats.Many of the seemingly harmless facilities such as social media sites on the Internet are providing loopholes to be exploited by cyber criminals. Unfortunately many organizations’ security policies do not cover these areas. Security experts in East Africa have established that 55 percent of organizations do not monitor the use of social media sites and others are not aware of any policies regarding such matters.

To add to the problems of fraud-supported terrorist activities, the existence of the so called “underground economy” has made obtaining illegal funds easier. Just as with the real economy, the underground economy is made primarily of buyers, sellers and markets. According to a study on the underground economy in Sub Saharan Africa banking card information is the most requested information in underground economy servers, with 38 percent of total requests in the study period. Other most demanded details include mobile money account PIN number, Mobile Money account user Identity, financial accounts, spam and phishing information, withdrawal services, identity theft information, server accounts, compromised computers, website accounts, malicious applications and retail accounts.These details are commonly used by criminals to steal money from the real economy, such as by using stolen bank account passwords to make unauthorized transfers to the offender. Organized criminals may then use the proceeds to finance other offenses such as terrorist attacks. According to a report on terrorist financing in East Africa, perpetrating a terrorist attack, for example, is considered to be low cost when compared to the devastating effects that it can deliver. According to the report, for example, the cost of the 2013 Westgate attack in Nairobi was found to have cost $13,870.Compare that to the 2004 Madrid train bombings cost which $10,000 and the 2005 London bombings that cost $15,673. The use of the Internet by criminals has increased the difficulty of investigating crimes and prosecuting the offenders. This includes difficulties in identifying the perpetrators as well as a number of jurisdiction problems during investigation and prosecution stages.The fact that financial crime can be a predicate offense to more dangerous offenses signifies the need to invest more in crime prevention measures. However, for organizations, investing in crime prevention measures such as security technology can be expensive and thus many are reluctant to do so.As a result,organizations should consider the long term benefits of what currently may look like a waste of money in terms of prevention measures. In practice,the larger organizations are more likely to suffer fraud due to the fact that they have more employees and more assets, and deal with more vendors and operate in more areas.

Many experts believe that investing in crime prevention measures is similar to many other investments for improving the company’s efficiency by reducing the risk of incurring loss from cybercrime attack.Several studies have concluded that an organization’s high level of security positively influences customers’ willingness to make transactions with that organization. Currently, African societies are transforming into an “online societies” as a result of the growing popularity of, among other things, social networking services, blogging, microblogging, chatting and gaming. Available statistical trends show that Internet dependency is on the rise as a result of the more widespread use of the technology. On the other hand, this is also accompanied by the increasing risk of cybercrime.In 2015, there were many cybercrime incidents including identity theft, account hijacking for fraudulent purposes, fraud, online gambling, pornography, money laundering and terrorist financing. Despite the existence of the Law on electronic Information and electronic transactions in dozen of Sub Saharan African countries, many of these cases remain unsolved due to particular inherent difficulties in investigating cyber crimes such as jurisdictional problems and a lack of skilled human resources.Although some may think that cybercrime only happens in cyberspace and losses are just financial figures, in reality it is more than meets the eye. It is frightening to imagine what criminals could do with the huge amount of proceeds from their crimes. To address this problem effectively, a holistic approach needs to be adopted that encompasses multiple areas such as detection, prevention and prosecution.Law enforcement personnel’s knowledge and expertise should also be upgraded for coping with cybercrime issues for the sake of effective investigations and prosecution of offenders. To minimize the jurisdictional problems regarding the borderless nature of cybercrime, extensive cooperation among law enforcement agencies should always be sought. To ensure the effectiveness of these efforts, cutting edge technology and strong legal system are among the essential elements in the process.

Contador Harrison