Africa increases cybersecurity efforts

Cheaper Internet access and a rise in e-commerce has resulted in an increase in cybercrime

Availability of affordable connectivity and an increase in online criminal activity has pushed many African countries to ramp up cybersecurity efforts.

African countries have recently suffered an increase in phishing scams, malware, advance-fee scams (commonly known as Nigerian 411 scams) and mobile-money related fraud, according to industry insiders.

"Connectivity has significantly improved in many African countries and the rate of online criminal activity has gone up, leading to better awareness among top managers and people allocating budgets," said Steve Santorelli, director of global outreach at Team Cymru, an Internet security research firm.

At the Africa Internet Summit this week, Santorelli showcased some of the work Team Cymru does with Internet Exchange Points, providing data on infected machines that allow IXPs and Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) to coordinate with ISPs and clean up affected machines.

"We are about data sharing -- we supply information on affected machines and help with post processing of data to show where the vulnerabilities and command controls are; this is not a commercial activity, no money changes hands," added Santorelli.

Africa's cybersecurity movement has gained momentum with the formation of Africa CERT, a body that coordinates the reporting and response to cases of malicious malware or criminal activity.. Currently, 11 countries have set up CERT teams that coordinate and report security threats. The countries involved are South Africa, Kenya, Burkina Faso, Tunisia, Morocco, Cameroon, Sudan, Egypt, Ghana, Mauritius and Ivory Coast.

Ivory Coast has passed laws related to cybersecurity and data protection and in 2012, the national CERT received 1,892 incidence reports that were investigated in conjunction with the authorities. As a result, 71 arrests were made and 51 people were convicted of security-related crimes.

The national CERT in Ivory coast conducts audits of government websites and works with the national information security sector to identify ways to help the ICT community in the country.

South Africa is probably the most advanced in e-commerce market in the region, which also means that it has witnessed the highest number of phishing scams and fraud. Since 2002, South Africa has passed legislation to safeguard the public against online criminal activity.

"For the longest time, South Africa was number three in phishing activity, behind U.S.A. and the U.K.; this is not a government problem, it's everyone's problem and there is need for coronation to protect critical internet infrastructure," said Palesa Legoze, a director at the department of communication, South Africa.

According to a Team Cymru study, Africa computer devices have a 5 percent infection rate, compared to 10 percent in Europe. African network managers are expected to continue to hone security, improving resiliency to DDoS attacks, and will push for public awareness on online security, Santorelli said.

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