Cybersecurity in Africa
03 December 2019
The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2019 lists cyber-attacks among the most severe global threats, along with weather extremes, the failure of climate protection and natural disasters. Cyber-crime breaches are up 11% year-on-year in 2019 and have increased by 67% over the past five years, according to a study done by Accenture.
Cybercrime is a criminal offence that involves a computer and a network, the computer often the object of the crime or used as a tool to commit the offense. The rapid increase in internet penetration, digital connectivity and proliferation of new technologies in Africa has left the continent vulnerable to cyberattacks. This is because individuals, businesses and government organisations on the continent have not invested enough resources in cybersecurity, often viewing it as an afterthought.
In 2017 cybercrimes cost African economies $3.5 billion with banks and financial services accounting for nearly a quarter of the continent’s cybercrime losses followed by governments, e-commerce platforms, mobile-based transactions and telecommunications. Attacks range from simple email scams to large-scale theft of customer data using malware, ransom attacks, and disinformation. These can have wide-ranging effects such as financial losses or reputational damage as well as disruption of business or government operations.
Last month, the City of Johannesburg, a metropolitan municipality that manages the local governance of Johannesburg, South Africa reported a breach of its network and consequently shut down its website; e-services; and billing portal. The hack occurred at the same time that several South African banks also reported internet problems believed to be related to cyber-attacks. A group called the Shadow Kill Hackers claimed responsibility and demanded a ransom.
The good news is that cybersecurity governance is on the rise across the continent with national governments adopting cybersecurity strategies to address a wide range of threats that include foreign governments attacking critical national infrastructure, criminals locking then ransoming computer systems, hacktivists protesting against the activities of firms and the bulk theft of identities. Morocco, for example, is among Africa’s leaders in trying to address cybercrime. Companies operating in that country have to comply with laws on cybercrime; the protection of personal data and electronic exchanges.
African entrepreneurs have the opportunity to build cybersecurity businesses that will not only protect their countries but could be very profitable too. HackerOne, a San Francisco-based business has built a vulnerability coordination and bug-bounty platform. The company connects businesses with penetration testers and cybersecurity researchers. As of July 2018, HackerOne had resolved 72,000 vulnerabilities across over 1,000 customer programs and had paid $31 million in bounties.