What’s been done to fight cybercrime in East Africa
East Africa attracts millions of tourists every year. Over the past 10 years, its earnings from tourism have doubled. Compared to the rest of Africa, the region is experiencing healthy economic growth. This makes it a promising investment destination.
Factors like regional tourism, movement of workers and technology development have catalysed East African integration and cross-border banking.
Many cross-border banks originate from Kenya with branches across the region. One example is Kenya’s Equity Bank, which relies heavily on digital technology. The digital space has many positive attributes but the threat of cybercrime and insecurity is prevalent.
Uganda lost 42 million shillings to cybercrime in 2017. In 2018, Rwanda lost 6 billion francs. In Kenya, between April and June 2019 alone, the country experienced 26.6 million cyber threats.
Across the region, with the increase of digital banking, financial institutions have become targets. These institutions are attractive to cyber criminals because they hold the biggest cash reserves. Africa’s digital infrastructure is ill-equipped to manage the continent’s growing cyber-security risk.
Equity is a pioneer in online and mobile banking with technology that merges banking and telephony. However, it recently suffered a cyber-attack. Last month, Rwandan authorities arrested a cybercrime syndicate comprising eight Kenyans, three Rwandans and a Ugandan. The syndicate had attempted to hack into the Equity Bank system. The group has been involved in similar attacks in Kenya and Uganda.
Early in the year, Kenya’s director of criminal investigation issued warrants of arrest against 130 suspected hackers and fraudsters for alleged banking fraud.
These incidents show that financial losses to cyber insecurity are a growing threat to East Africa’s economy.
Cybercrime occurs through the use of computers, computer technology or the internet. It often results in identity theft, theft of money, sale of contraband, cyber stalking or disruption of operations.
Within East Africa, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda are taking steps to manage the huge cybercrime risk. But the cyber attack on Equity Bank is proof that these countries need to do more to protect their financial institutions from massive losses going forward.