The world is experiencing a boom in cybercrime. The cost of these attacks to African economies was calculated at $3.5 billion in 2017. This number has certainly risen since then.
Digital technologies are extremely important in modern society. From the most high-tech servers to the phones in our pockets, we rely on tech products and services in both our work and our social lives.
As such, several initiatives have been launched to ensure that people feel safe and protected when using them. In this second article on cybercrime, we will explore the measures being taken to address the growing cyber-threat in Africa.
What can governments do?
Like any other type of criminal activity, it is the responsibility of governments to ensure that laws are in place and enforced to protect their citizens. Legislation which does so can largely be divided into two groups.
The first group are regulatory laws which require organisations to have adequate cybersecurity measures in place. The most important of these are data protection laws which protect the basic personal information of individuals. Recently, more African governments are recognising this, with Egypt, Kenya, Zambia, and Zimbabwe the latest to introduce new legislation.
The other type of laws are those which provide adequate punishments for cybercrimes to discourage hackers from conducting attacks. In the last few years South Africa has been the target of several cyber attacks and has recently proposed a bill which aims to do this.
This ‘Cybercrimes and Cyber Security Bill’ will increase sentences and impose harsher sanctions to discourage criminal activity. These include larger fines for a greater number of crimes which previously had weak punishments. Possession of software used for hacking will be made illegal and harmful communication, like racism or abuse, over online platforms will also be made an offense.
How important is awareness?
Despite these examples, there is still a long way to go in terms of legislation which protects individuals across the continent. Therefore, it is extremely important to raise awareness on the issue of cybercrime.
Whilst it is important for governments to invest the time and resources to understand the issues and find the best ways to solve them, we can all play a part in placing the spotlight on cybercrime.
Education continues to be one of the most effective ways of preventing attacks. Organisations and schools should provide training to employees and students so that they use technology responsibly and safely. For example, securing passwords and avoiding unsafe websites can reduce individual exposure to viruses or scams which can endanger personal data.
Therefore, fighting back against the rising cyber-threat is a team effort. Governments must take the lead in passing laws and investing in measures which protect their citizens. But as they try to work out the best ways of doing this, individuals should do their best to protect themselves.
With the right legislation and education, Africa can protect against cybercrime to give its people the freedom to experience the benefits of the technological revolution.