Research has found that in 2022, Africa will have over 1 billion mobile internet connections. It is the world’s fastest-growing rate of internet penetration. Yet, cybersecurity on the continent is lacking. This could cause havoc for the digital environment and economy.
What is the situation in Africa?
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, infrastructure is weak and data transmission is expensive.
One of the main challenges for the further development of Africa’s digital environment is cybersecurity and cybercrime. Interpol found, in 2021, that over 90% of African businesses were operating without the necessary cybersecurity measures in place. This is a shockingly high number.
Without the relevant security measures, cybercriminals have free rein to exploit weaknesses and even come up with new ways to attack.
The result will be massive financial loss and loads of 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.
Which threats are most prevalent on the continent?
Susan Ndungu, CSAD’s Regional Manager in East Africa, says there is a wide variety of common attacks. For example, she notes that, “In East Africa, the most common cyber threats include email attacks like phishing.”
Africa, as a whole often falls prey to fraud schemes, social engineering, tax scams, ransomware attacks, and even crypto jacking. Ndungu also believes that social media will become a hotspot for attackers targeting enterprise professionals in 2022.
Why does cybercrime remain a challenge?
According to CSAD’s English West Africa Regional Manager, Femi Ibine, there are various reasons that the continent struggles with cybercrime.
“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,” says Ibine. This could also point to the fact that there is a lack of education on the topic in general, across Africa. On top of this, he finds that there is a lack of willingness to pay for security services. He says that “executives want to expand their businesses via digitization, yet they see investments in security as costs that should be cut down”.
How will cybersecurity help Africa’s digital environment thrive?
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.
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 risks are increasing every day and the digital revolution is here. We all have to act now, or fail.
How do we improve cybersecurity in Africa?
The largest step that needs to be taken is action from the governments in the continent. To fight online dangers, Africa countries must not only implement cybersecurity measures, but also put relevant laws and frameworks in place. There is a need for digital rights to be enforced continent wide. Here, regional cooperation might help.
In addition, cybersecurity education should be increased overall. Businesses and individuals should know what is at risk. This will likely shake them into action.
Ibine also believes that, “young talents should consider a career in cybersecurity”. By increasing the skills in the region, we can increase the safety.
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.
- Use multi-factor authentication to access software and applications.
- Implement security measures from antiviruses to encryption.
- Keep access to information limited.
- Update your software regularly.
Gina Sewpaul, CSAD’s Business Unit Manager says, “Digital capacity in Africa tends to lag, making the continent a gold mine for cybercriminals”. To prevent a down fall of the digital environment in Africa, cybersecurity is crucial.