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Cyber crimes soaring to $3.5 billion in Africa amid weak defenses

Staff Writer |
Sub-Saharan African region could be the next epicenter of cyber attacks targeting government installations, private businesses and ordinary citizens thanks to weak deterrent measures, says a report launched in Nairobi.

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The 2017 Africa cyber security report compiled by a Nairobi-based consulting firm, Serianu, disclosed that the continent lost an estimated $3.5 billion last year as a result of increase in sophisticated cyber crimes.

Experts said the report, which covered 700 public and private institutions in ten African countries, confirmed that the soaring cyber attacks in the continent posed new threats to its security, economic growth and stability.

"The threat of cyber attacks has gained foothold in Africa yet governments and private sector are yet to invest in adequate defenses to curb their spread," said William Makatiani, the CEO of Serianu.

"Securing data should therefore be a priority for public and private institutions in the light of rapidly evolving threats to cyberspace," he added.

Serianu and a consortium of telecommunication giants, academic institutions and think tanks conducted the survey which revealed that cyber attacks were more pronounced in banks, government agencies and mid-sized enterprises across Africa.

The survey noted that cyber-crimes had also escalated in African cities where internet connections are higher.

Makatiani regretted that digital infrastructure owned by households has not been spared the threat of malicious attacks hence the need to invest in strong defenses.

"Securing homes and individual devices is now a paramount issue. Households must now introduce as part of their annual budgets, a cyber security component," said Makatiani.

African small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that provide bulk of employment to the youth and are heavily relying on the internet to conduct transactions are grappling with cyber attacks of huge magnitude.

Makatiani noted that these SMEs lack the financial and technical capacity to deal with cyber threats.

"It emerged that 95 percent of these businesses have limited knowledge and skills set required to deal with cybercrime," said Makatiani.

He stressed that investments in skilled personnel, public education and deterrent tools is key to warding off cyber attacks on state bodies and private businesses.

The year 2017 witnessed unprecedented cyber attacks and data breaches on Africa's public and private institutions that were carried out by home grown criminal networks.

Policy makers recommended homegrown innovations to strengthen detection and disruption of potential threats to digital infrastructure.

John Sergon, the CEO of Kenya's ICT Authority, said investments in cyber-defenses that are adaptable to local settings as well as mass public education are key to minimizing attacks on Africa's cyber space.

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