Cameroon starts the new year as home to the world's riskiest Internet sites according to cyber-security firm McAfee. The government says it is drafting new laws to punish Internet fraud.
Cameroon's place atop the Internet fraud list is partly a result of the alphabet.
Criminals are taking advantage of Cameroon's Internet suffix ".cm" to trick careless Web surfers who mistype the popular ".com" suffix. By establishing false ".cm" sites that appear similar to the ".com" Web page people thought they were going to, criminals can acquire personal information for identity theft and spread spyware and malicious downloads.
The U.S. cyber security firm McAfee says more than one-third of Web sites hosted in Cameroon are suspicious, putting the West African nation ahead of China, Samoa, the Philippines and the former Soviet Union as the world's riskiest destination for Internet surfers.
But Cameroon's minister of posts and telecommunications, Jean-Pierre Biyiti Bi Essam, says the McAfee study does not reflect everything that is going on in Cameroon.
Biyiti Bi Essam says Cameroon is still at the beginning of its Internet development, and it is at this moment that McAfee is making its judgment. He says President Paul Biya's government has read the report and is responding, first by moving to improve security.
Biyiti Bi Essam says Cameroon is working with South Korea on a project to improve Internet security. He says the study has been completed and action will soon be taken to boost Internet security, electronic commerce, and electronic banking in Cameroon. The minister says the government is also drafting laws against cyber criminality.
Tougher criminal penalties are a big part of solving the problem as McAfee says cyber-criminals target regions that pose the least risk of being caught and where registering sites is cheap and convenient.
Cameroon's government has its own problems with computer hackers as official government sites were crashed several times last year, preventing people from accessing on-line information. Web sites for Cameroonian newspapers have also been hacked, sometimes to place advertisements for the sale of protected species.
McAfee's third annual report on worldwide Internet security says the countries with the safest domains are Japan, Ireland, and Croatia.