A report released recently about the escalating cases of cybercrime by the Symantec security company revealed that whereas the most prevalent type of attacks are mobile phone users are now becoming more vulnerable to attacks by cybercriminals followed by computer viruses and malware attacks. According to another research conducted by a German company, more than a quarter of adults using their phones for browsing online experienced cybercrime through their mobile devices in the period ending April 2013.
According to multiple studies, there has been an increase in mobile devices vulnerabilities for the past five years, a trend that suggests a shift of cybercriminals targets who are now focusing more on mobile gadgets. The plummeting cost of Smartphones has been cited as a fertile ground for cybercriminals.
A research carried out in Africa last year indicated that the proliferation of Smartphone in the region has led to the increase in the use of social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google plus. However, most of the users are vulnerable due to lack of protection, a scenario that has created a fertile ground for cybercrime attacks.
The number of Internet users in Africa is estimated to be at least 200 million plus and is expected to reach 500 million particularly due to the rising mobile access trend with some countries like Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa having a penetration rate of more than 70%.
Africa’s Internet access and device ownership ratio and the growth of the number of gadgets are considered to be the fastest growing globally despite the fact that the continent is the poorest in the world. Studies in different African countries have revealed a continuous decrease in service tariffs and data costs. The drop in cost of accessing the Internet has transformed Africa into an “online continent.”
This has led to the growth in popularity of blogging, micro blogging through Twitter, social networking services like Facebook and Google plus, chat sites and apps like Whatsapp and gaming among many other services available online. Statistics show more than 30 African countries there is a huge Internet reliance largely driven by widespread use of the technology accompanied by an increased risk of cyber attacks.
A study conducted by security experts in several African countries earlier this year revealed different cybercrime incidents depended on a country infrastructure and uptake of technology. However, uniformity was reported on type of crimes committed online that included but not limited to bank accounts disruptions common in East African region, massive theft of images and identity that cut across all regions, defamation, fraud, online gambling that were common in Southern African region, pornography common in East Africa, money laundering common in West Africa and terrorist financing common in North and East African regions.
Statistics reveal that that cybercrime is growing at a faster rate in Africa than it is in other continents, analyzing the estimated yearly cost of cybercrime for the principal economies of the continent it is possible to observe that countries such as Kenya suffer a serious impact compared to the US one.
Unfortunately, the existence of the stringent laws meant to deter offenders, many of the reported cases have remained unsolved due to difficulties investigating cybercrimes such as jurisdictional challenges and a lack of skilled human resources a common problem in African countries. Cybercrime is a hair raising crime that drives fear among the authorities and law enforcement agencies because very few could know in advance what criminals could do with the ill gotten proceeds. We know that cybercriminals have been using their proceeds to fund terrorist activities around the world.
Any country that ignores cybercrime is equally ignoring its safety as well and the consequences could be irreversible and fatal. In order for African countries and other regions to address cybercrime effectively, an effective approach to the crime should to be adopted to include various areas ranging from prevention, detection and prosecution of cyber crooks.
Contador Harrison & Pierluigi Paganini
(Security Affairs – cybercrime, Africa)