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Cyber criminals targeting mobile phones 'a major issue for Africa'

Cyber criminals targeting mobile phones 'a major issue for Africa'

Cooperation and awareness is key to fighting cybercrime in Africa, where mobile phones are the main targets of cyber criminals.

This was the main takeaway from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Experts in Technology and Policy (ETAP) Forum held in Windhoek, Namibia this week.

"If we want to fight cybercrime in Africa we must urgently increase awareness of cyber security among citizens, users, non-governmental organisations, companies and government departments," said Prof. Basie von Solms, from the Centre for Cyber Security at the Academy for Computer Science and Software Engineering at the University of Johannesburg.

He explained that cyber security awareness (CSA) programmes are the most cost effective solution and the best investment to offer protection against cyber attacks.

Prof. Von Solms emphasised that Africa is crying out for comprehensive CSA programmes.

Mobile phones will account for almost one-tenth of African GDP by the end of the decade, which makes cyber crime targeting mobile phones a major issue for the African continent. The mobile sector contributed $100bn (£76bn) to sub-Saharan Africa's economy in 2014 and is expected to account for three times that in 2020.

"As handsets and data become more affordable mobile phones will become more accessible. This will change the way public services are delivered and how business and politics are conducted. While this will have advantages, the biggest consequence will be an increase in cyber crime. According to the Cisco 2017 Annual Cyber Security Report, African countries lost at least $2 billion in cyber attacks in 2016, while Kenya recorded the highest losses of $171 million, Tanzania $85 million and Uganda $35 million."

Prof. Von Solms said the 2015 Cyber Security Report confirms that security awareness and training measurably reduces cyber security risk and that an investment in user awareness and training effectively changes behaviour and quantifiably reduces security-related risks by 45% to 70%'.

He proposed the establishment of an Africa-wide standardised introductory course for cyber security awareness in cooperation with organisations such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU). "If we have the political will, it can and will be successful," he said.

Elizabeth Ujarura Kamutuezu, deputy director in the ICT ministry of Namibia said "Namibia has 100% mobile phone penetration and therefore cyber security plays a pivotal role in the continuing development of information technology and internet services, which makes it vital to enhance cyber security".

Dr. Towela Nyirenda Jere, principal programme officer for regional integration, infrastructure and trade at Nepad, agreed that coordination between the AU and member states is important to create awareness among stakeholders and coordinate and communicate at national and regional level.

"There is a need for all stakeholders in civil society, government, the private sector and academics to be involved in national and regional processes. The role of the Pan Africa Parliament must be strengthened and the ratification process must be examine and streamlined. There is also a need for financial resources to set up institutions, build technical and institutional capacity and monitor and enforce legislation."

Njei Check, head of the Audit Security Division, at the Agence Nationale des Technologies de l'Information et de la Communication (ANTIC) in Cameroon said, "in the last few years, the digital economy, as a catalyst for innovation and competitiveness, has become an important lever for economic development, but the development of the digital economy is unfortunately jeopardised by cyber criminality that thrives on the virtuality of the cyberspace and seriously damaging the trust within the cyberspace".

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