Cybersecurity in Africa must be a shared responsibility

The world is a much different place than it was a decade ago. Today, nearly every part of our lives are connected to the Internet.  We can take pictures with our smartphones and upload them instantaneously to social media networks, use GPS navigation to find our desired destinations, and pay our bills and manage our finances online.

Africa is growing quickly in terms of population, the economy, and global influence. Technology adoption continues to rise in Africa, with mobile smart device ownership growing exponentially, social media use increasing, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are becoming a reality.

With this growing prosperity and digitization however comes new risks and vulnerabilities that could undermine progress. As more people get access to the internet across Africa, governments and businesses are increasing their online presence but there are questions about how secure these systems are.

As Africans become more reliant on modern technology, we also become more vulnerable to cyber exploits such as corporate security breaches, social media fraud, and spear phishing, which targets employees through emails that appear to be from colleagues, allowing cyber criminals to steal personal and business information.

Security breaches are costly, and the number of attacks is on the rise globally. Of much concern is that Hackers are gradually turning their attention to Africa! According to a recent BBC report, cybercrime is Africa’s ‘next biggest threat’ to business growth and prosperity.  Government and commercial online services could become the next frontier for illegal activity in Africa, the report added.According to the Africa Cyber Security Report 2016 published by the Serianu Cyber Threat Intelligence Team;

  • Local cyber criminals are moving online and getting more sophisticated.
  • Business email scams led to losses amounting to USD 2 million in 2016.
  • Estimated cost of cyber-crime in Africa has soared with: Nigeria ($550 million), Kenya ($175 million), Tanzania ($85 million), Ghana ($50 million) and Uganda ($35 million)

With the absence of any credible compliance regime, it is little surprise that the continent is now experiencing an upsurge of sophisticated cyber attacks across the continent.For example, a recent cybersecurity report on Kenya says businesses are losing about $146m (£96m) every year to cyber-crime.

This situation is replicated across the continent…

For example, South Africa’s Sunday Times newspaper reported that hackers launched 6,000 cyber-attacks against South African infrastructure, internet service providers (ISPs) and businesses in October 2016 alone.

Yes, Cybersecurity is a major problem in Africa…and the main causes of these problems are:

  • Lack of awareness of end users on how to protect themselves, and the implications of not protecting themselves.
  • There is no major agency either of Government or non-government that is responsible in protecting the citizens against Cybercrime or even where to report incidence of Cybercrime. Though financial crimes are usually reported to the Police.
  • Lack of legal framework and the required skill by the law enforcement agents to handle Cybercrime.
  • Whereas some Africa countries such as Nigeria and Ghana have a National Cybersecurity Strategy with the Office of the National Security Adviser, however there is URGENT need to ensure the execution of that strategy and a strict compliance regime.
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Now, this year marks the tenth anniversary of National Cyber Security Awareness Month in the U.S. Given the stakes, we cannot afford to only think about the next year, we must remain focused on meeting the challenges of the next ten years.

However, in order for Africa to realize its full potential and to reap the full dividend from the development of the digital economy, the most important driver today for innovation, competitiveness and growth, policymakers will need to implement effective policies and awareness initiatives to stem the rising tide of cyber threats.

In addition, from an African context, what would be the top priority to address cybercrime across the continent is Coordination and Collaboration between Government agencies, the Private sector, Academia and individual experts across the continent.

In Ghana, although some level of investment in cyber security has been made in a bid to combat cybercrime, however I believe the best approach to address the cybercrime issue in Ghana is to heighten public education in this regard, provide in-depth training and ICT tools to the law enforcement agencies and of course employment creation for the youth.

Still, cybersecurity cannot be left under the grace of an individual. Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility and each of us has a role to play. It only takes a single infected computer to potentially infect thousands and perhaps millions of others. Everyone should take basic cybersecurity measures that can improve both individual and our collective safety online. Some steps you can take to ensure you and your family are safe online include:

  • Don’t open emails or attachments that look suspicious
  • Set strong passwords, and don’t share them with anyone
  • Keep your operating system, browser, and other critical software optimized by checking for and installing updates
  • Limit the amount of personal information you post online and use privacy settings to avoid sharing information extensively.

It is worth noting that similar viewpoints were emphasized by the UK home secretary (Amber Rudd)at the recently concluded National Cyber Security Centre’s conference in Manchester, England; where she advised that Business owners, government agencies, cyber security experts and individuals all have a role to play in reducing the cybercrime that is costing billions globally.

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No doubt, Cybersecurity has emerged as a top priority for Ghana Government. According to President Nana Akufo-Addo (State of the Nation address, February 8, 2018), “A whole new set of dangers of cyber insecurity and fraud have emerged with increasing use of modern technology. We are working to strengthen cyber security to build confidence, and protect the use of electronic communications in national development.”

Clearly the government’s thinking is in the right directions, however there is a need for the government to make sure this a shared responsibility by actively encouraging small Cyber security outfits such as Delta3 International to collaborate and fully participate in the development of appropriate cyber security standards and infrastructure for Ghana.

On their part, some private organizations such as Institute of ICT Professionals Ghana (IIPGH) and Delta3 International are already collaborating to help promote the development of ICT and Cyber Security in Ghana. In an effort to raise public awareness and empower Africans to practice and promote safe cyber practices, Delta3 and their partners are holding various events and outreach efforts across the country, such as:

  • Cyber Security Awareness Workshops (CSAW)
  • Data Protection & Incident Response (DPIR)
  • Cyber Security Career Workshop

The main objective of these workshops is to help raise awareness, build capacity and educate Africans about topics including mobile device security, growing the cyber workforce, combating cyber crime, and the cybersecurity of our nation’s critical infrastructure.

Further details available on our website: www.delta3.co

>>>the author is an industry-recognized cyber security expert with over 15 years experience in architecting, training, writing, public speaking, and cyber security consultancy. He has worked as a Chief Engineer, Principal Security Architect, Solution Manager and Technical Design Authority (TDA) for large financial institutions and big consulting firms across Europe, Middle East and Africa.

As the Managing Partner for Delta3 International, Del now focuses on helping customers prevent security breaches and respond to advanced threats, providing Cybersecurity Advisory Services, System audits & assurance, Threat modelling, Vulnerability Assessment, Data protection, Business continuity, Governance, Risk & Compliance, as well as Digital Transformation & I.T Strategies.

For comments, contact author: Deleaden@delta3.co  Mobile: +233 202621350 (GH) or +44 7973 623 624 (UK). Website: www.delta3.co    Contact us: info@delta3.co

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