The International Telecommunications Union said last week that global internet users will reach three billion (44 per cent of the world’s population) before the end of the year, with half of them from developing countries.
In Rwanda efforts have been stepped up to increase internet penetration, according to Didier Nkurikiyimfura, the Director General in charge of ICT at the Ministry of Youth and ICT.
Increase in internet penetration however, comes with a new challenge—escalation in cyber crime.
Cyber crime is any criminal act committed through computers and networks. It also includes traditional crimes conducted through the Internet. It affects government departments, businesses like banks as well as individuals.
Such crimes include cyber stalking; fraud and identity theft; information warfare and phishing scams.
Rwanda National Police Spokesperson, Damas Gatare, acknowledges the gravity of the matter.
“Cyber crime is an emerging security threat, not only in Rwanda, but the whole world, and for the Rwanda National Police to meet such challenges; it set up a special unit. This is in addition to a financial investigation unit which handles financial and economic crimes,” he said.
He added that RNP has an officer attached to the central bank to help monitor such crimes.
Rwanda’s mobile telecommunication industry is the driving force behind the fast growth in internet services and, the country has worked hard to implement 3G and 4G broad band internet services, and conducted awareness campaigns to make sure that the country achieves 20 percent internet penetration.
Currently, about 2.1 million Rwandans access internet services and the country targets 95 per internet access by 2017.
Yet as the numbers grow and so are security concerns.
According to Janvier Mucyo, the Corporate Banking Manager of Bank of Kigali, cyber crime is a real threat that worries every bank. He said that since BK was “growing and expanding rapidly” cyber crime was something they had focused on.
“Our systems are fire-walled and we are keeping tabs with the latest technologies on the market. Our IT staff is well trained to tackle such issues. We are always enhancing our business continuity plans—meaning that in case of anything, we have alternatives on how to migrate systems and be able to continue serving our customers,” Mucyo noted.
Last year, supporters of the AU Convention on the Confidence and Security in Cyberspace argued that cybercrime was a growing scourge across the continent, due in part to rising Internet usage, lack of regulation and limited opportunities to make money, which spurs some to turn to criminal activities.
South Africa, until recently the continent’s biggest economy, has had 70 percent of its Internet users affected by cybercrime, according to a 2013 report from Symantec, an American computer security, backup and availability solutions software corporation.
At the same time, 47 percent of South African smart phone users experienced mobile cybercrime in the 12 months compared to 38 percent globally.
In April, Symantec’s 2014 report showed that after lurking in the shadows for the first 10 months of 2013, cybercriminals unleashed the most damaging series of cyber attacks in history.
Symantec recommended safety measures
Protection must focus on the information ‘not the device or data center. Understand where your sensitive data resides and where it is flowing to help identify the best policies and procedures to protect it.
Provide guidance on information protection, including company policies and procedures for protecting sensitive data on personal and corporate devices.
Strengthen your security infrastructure with data loss prevention, network security, endpoint security, encryption, strong authentication and defensive measures, including reputation-based technologies.
Passwords are the keys to your kingdom. Use password management software to create strong, unique passwords for each site you visit and keep your devices including smartphones updated with the latest security software.
Review bank and credit card statements for irregularities, be cautious when handling unsolicited or unexpected emails and be wary of online offers that seem too good to be.