Africa has pinned its hopes for development on the 4IR, which could present a myriad of opportunities for the continent to leapfrog into a competitive position in the global economy. However, as a leading value added cybersecurity distributor with extensive knowledge and partners across Africa, CSAD has concerns about key risks in the way of these ambitions.
But while research has found that the continent has the world’s fastest-growing rate of internet penetration – growing to over 1 billion mobile internet connections this year – digital innovators and entrepreneurs are proliferating, and services across the continent are moving to digital platforms. Banks, investing platforms, and even working environments are all accessed via the internet – much like they are in the rest of the world.
The difference is that Africa faces some challenges that other areas might not. For example, much of its infrastructure is weak and data transmission remains expensive. However, this digital development faces a key risk. Interpol found that last year, over 90% of African businesses were operating without the necessary cybersecurity measures in place.
“At CSAD, we have the resources and the solutions to provide African businesses with a local approach with global standards.” Gina Sewpaul, Business Unit Manager
This is a shockingly high number and this situation must be addressed before cyber crime wreaks havoc on the digital environment and economy.
Lax cyber security on the continent is making Africa a potential gold mine for cyber criminals. All indications are that criminals are well aware of this, and have already stepped up their activities in Africa. The Interpol report has identified some of the most prominent cyber threats across Africa as being online scams, digital extortion, business email compromise, ransomware and botnets.
Cyber Security Africa Distribution (CSAD) has noted regional differences, for example in East Africa, where the most common cyber threats include email attacks like phishing. However, Africa as a whole, often falls prey to fraud schemes, social engineering, tax scams, ransomware attacks, and even crypto jacking; while social media is expected to become a hotspot for attackers targeting enterprise professionals in 2022. CSAD, together with its partners and vendors who are specialists in their fields, can help in ensuring that this important part of Africa’s development is secure.
“In East Africa, the most common cyber threats include email attacks like phishing.” Susan Ndungu, East Africa Regional Manager
Mitigating these cyber risks demands a focus on technology, processes and people. Without the relevant security measures, cybercriminals have free rein to exploit weaknesses and even come up with new ways to attack, resulting in massive financial losses and stolen critical data. On top of this, businesses and citizens may become distrustful of online spaces, causing a decline of development for the digital environment which would be detrimental to businesses
For a digital environment to thrive, users – whether they be businesses or individuals – need to feel (at least relatively) safe to work and operate within it. Under the current circumstances, not many on the continent can say that they are confidently safe against cyber-attacks. With proper security measures in place, more businesses and individuals can feel comfortable to make use of e-commerce, more companies can store their data on the cloud, and more employees can safely login to work remotely. All of this will contribute to a growing and thriving digital environment.
The first and most significant step that needs to be taken is action from the governments in the continent. To fight online dangers, African countries must not only implement cybersecurity measures, but also put relevant laws and frameworks in place to deter cyber crime and enforce digital rights. Here, regional cooperation might help
“Not only is there a huge skills gap in this technology sub-discipline, but there is also a lack of or ambiguous cyber security legal and regulatory frameworks from the government.” Femi Ibine, English West Africa Regional Manager
In addition, cybersecurity education should be increased overall to ensure that businesses and individuals know what is at risk and how to mitigate the risks. Organisations across the continent need a change of mindset; moving from seeing cyber security as a cost centre to seeing it as a business enabler. In the face of a huge cyber security skills gap, young talents should be encouraged and assisted to enter careers in cybersecurity.
But what can businesses and individuals do on their own to improve cybersecurity?
Here are a few tips:
- Assess what risks you may face and ensure that you know how to detect threats.
- Keep access to information limited.
- Use multi-factor authentication to access software and applications.
- Update software regulary.
- Implement security measures from antiviruses to encryption.
The goal of cybersecurity is to mitigate threats and attacks. Its purpose is to keep away actors who may want access to computers, networks, databases, and so on. These malicious actors can cause disruptions to individuals, businesses, and even governmental organisations online. The risks are increasing every day and the digital revolution is here. We all have to act now, or our digital aspirations will be doomed.