Russian multinational cybersecurity and anti-virus provider, Kaspersky Lab, recently launched its transparency centre in Kigali, making it the first of its kind on the African market. The development, announced on the sidelines of the Africa Cyber Defense Forum (ACDF) in Kigali, aims to, among other things, underscore the strong nexus between transparency and the fight against cybercrime. The transparency centre comes at a time when Africa is among the regions with the highest number of industrial control systems (ICS computers) under attack since the beginning of 2023. ALSO READ: Kasperksy reports increasing global trend of malware to industrial control systems At least attacks were detected on 43.4 per cent of ICS computers in Africa, yet globally, malicious objects were detected on 36.9 per cent of ICS machines. In an exclusive interview, The New Times’ Edwin Ashimwe caught up with Kaspersky’s Genie Sugene Gan, Head of Government Affairs and Public Policy, Asia-Pacific, Japan, Middle East, Turkey, and Africa, on a number of aspects of cybersecurity. Excerpts: In brief, what has been your takeaway from the Africa Cyber Defense Forum? It has been very special for me and for Kaspersky’s team at large. Not only is our 11th Transparency Center globally significant, but it is even more so because even though it's the 11th globally, it's actually the first for the African continent. Speaking of establishing this centre on the African market, do you think it was long overdue? The African market is one of the key markets within Kaspersky, I wish it could have been earlier, but a lot of these things are market-driven. I don’t want to say it was long overdue, but I believe it is timely now. Because if it was earlier, say during the pandemic, I'm not sure that the market has that kind of an appetite for it. But now I think it has become a low-hanging fruit and we're doing it just at the right time. How significant is it in comparison to the current state of threats? The African region is actually facing an increasing number of cyber threats. That is also because cyber attackers are actually very enterprising. They know exactly where the opportunities are, where the money is, where the best potential for extracting more resources would be. And they've started paying attention to Africa in recent times and we have statistics to show. And because of this emerging set of threats that are facing the market, cybersecurity is becoming something that’s primary in the national agenda of several countries. Of course, some of the leading countries in this respect that are paying close attention to cybersecurity would, of course, include Rwanda, maybe also Kenya, Nigeria, and Ghana. Some of these countries are actually stepping up their efforts. So, I think it is a timely occasion to launch the transparency centre, and I hope you are aware that the plan is to expand at least to more than 10 countries in the days to come, but it's all market-driven, so it really depends. But of course, if one transparency centre is able to service the entire region, then so shall it be. In brief, give us a picture of what the centre is coming to address. So, first of all, within a transparency centre, you actually see a physical room under secure conditions. It looks no different from any other room, except for all the transparency messaging, messaging that you see on the walls. But you would actually be able to find computers which are specially configured to grant access to certain aspects of our servers and our software, to be able to do data examination and also to review the source codes, the programming that’s behind our software. Some regulators are actually quite interested, and they have stepped forward to request a visit and to do an examination of our source codes. You speak of an ideal cyber-threat-free world. How do you describe that ecosystem? What is key is to collaborate. It has to be collaborative. The problem now, unfortunately, and it kills me because I'm an idealist, is that there's so much competition, so much unhealthy competition. It shouldn't be about just serving a selfish purpose. Sometimes people collaborate to serve a larger goal, right? To create a safer world. And there is, we sometimes need to take a step back from our busy lives to remember that, you know, we do all serve that. Can that approach be realised even with the current limited market-ready skills? What we do at Kaspersky is that we have our own Kaspersky Academy with more than 200 courses. But beyond our organisation, I believe the private sector has a strong role to play in this area. You must understand that the world today does not have a dedicated Bachelor’s in cyber-security yet. Maybe in the universities, for the longest time, you have computer science, you have computer engineering, you have software engineering, programming, but you don't really hear about a cyber-security degree. But cyber-attacks are still happening, under our breath as we're speaking now. Kaspersky detects by now about 420,000 new malware, new malicious files every day. Before the pandemic, it was about 300, 000. It's grown exponentially. So, if I am sitting down here for an hour with you, I am talking about 18, 000. Just like that. This is the kind of landscape that we're having, and yet this is the kind of skill set that we have today. So, while we are waiting for the degree, and for the graduates to become good at their work, and become true cyber-security experts, there is a huge gap. That is going to be with us for the next few years, or maybe for the next decade, right, at least. But in the context of this vulnerability, how do we protect the ordinary people? I think it begins with cyber hygiene. For instance, just today, I was at a conference, and some people had their laptops with them on the tables, right? And I saw no fewer than three computers that were left there unlocked, unmanned. That's our cyber hygiene problem. And it's a very simple, basic thing, but people still do it. And people have normalised that. I think it boils down to a lack of awareness. Parting shot Today's announcement, the launch of our transparency centre, which I think takes centre stage for me today is an important milestone, but also an important first step in the right direction. This is only the beginning, we are not going to pat ourselves on the back and walk away, it's only the beginning and there's so much more work to be done. And finally, I think we need to rally support for ensuring a safer cyberspace zone.