Across the globe, the dangers posed by cybercrime are on the rise – with high-profile incidents like the recent ‘Wannacry’ ransomware attack an example of the growing threat. Cyber experts say Africa is particularly at risk as the use of internet and mobile technology increases rapidly, but cyber security on the continent is failing to keep pace.
The adoption of technology across Africa is growing exponentially. Online commerce is predicted to be worth $75 billion by the year 2025. But with the opportunity comes risk, says London-based cybersecurity consultant William Kapuku-Bwabwa.
“The cybersecurity infrastructure, most of the [African] countries don’t have it. And those who’ve got it, it’s in a very infancy level,” he said.
A report by security firm Norton says close to 9 million South Africans say they experienced cybercrime in 2016. Across Africa the cost is huge, says Stephanie Itimi, an adviser to the Africa Business Portal.
“Africa as a continent loses over 2.5 billion U.S. dollars a year to cybercrime. And over $500 million is from Nigeria,” she said.
Like the internet, cybercrime easily crosses borders, and Africa has been hit by recent global attacks. Ransomware — where criminals demand money in return for unfreezing affected devices – plus other viruses and social media scams all have affected the continent. But experts warn the lack of preparedness in Africa poses additional dangers.
“Most of the African states do not have a cybersecurity crisis management plan in place. And they don’t have any kind of education, and the legislation is very weak because they do focus on traditional crime,” said William Kapuku-Bwabwa.
Nigeria is one of the few African states to have passed specific cybercrime legislation. But there have been very few prosecutions, says Stephanie Itimi.
“With the act in place, it’s not been enforced properly. And the reason why there’s implementation problems is because we don’t have lawyers who are well educated on cybercrimes to be able to put a case to a judge,” she said.
Africa is a global leader in the adoption of mobile technology for money transfers, with more than 1 in 10 people using the technology. Experts warn cyber criminals see that as a vulnerability — and are increasingly targeting mobile devices for identity theft and scams.