African countries “vulnerable” to cybercrime – Interpol

A new Interpol report will assist African agencies charged with combatting cybercrime to better understand major threats and formulate a co-ordinated regional response.

Cybercrimes, the international police organisation said, affect all countries but “weak networks and security make African countries particularly vulnerable”.

Africa has an estimated 500 million Internet users, equating to 38% of the continent’s population, leaving major Internet growth potential.

“Africa has the fastest growing telephone and Internet networks in the world and makes the widest use of mobile banking services.

“This digital demand, coupled with a lack of cybersecurity policies and standards, exposes online services to major risks.

“As African countries move to incorporate digital infrastructure into all aspects of society – including government, banking, business and critical infrastructure – it is crucial to put a robust cybersecurity framework into place,” Interpol maintains.

The Interpol Africa cybercrime report identifies five major threats.

They are: online scams in the form of fake emails or text messages claiming to be legitimate and used to trick individuals into revealing personal or financial information; digital extortion where victims are tricked into sharing sexually compromising images used for blackmail; business email compromise with criminals hacking into email systems for information on corporate payment systems sand deceiving employees into transferring money; ransomware where cybercriminals block hospitals and public institutions computer systems and demand money to restore functionality; and botnets with networks of compromised machines used to automate large scale cyberattacks.

“Criminals exploit vulnerabilities in cyber security across the region and take advantage of variations in law enforcement capabilities across physical borders,” Craig Jones, Interpol cybercrime director, said.

“Interpol’s regional cybercrime strategy for Africa provides a robust framework for sharing intelligence and co-ordinating action to strengthen law enforcement response across Africa and beyond.”

The strategy focuses on criminal intelligence, law enforcement operations, regional capacity and capabilities and awareness campaigns for business and the general public.

Implementation will be driven by Interpol’s African cybercrime operations desk, in partnership with key regional stakeholders, particularly the African Union (AU), Afripol, law enforcement communities and the private sector.

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