Law enforcement agencies must step up by enhancing measures to detect and prevent the cyber-attacks from the source, where investigation and prosecution can effectively take place, Justice Minister Emmanuel Ugirashebuja has said. He made the call while officiating the 9th Africa Working Group meeting on Cybercrime for heads of units, in Kigali that will last for one week. The meeting was co-organised by Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) and Interpol. According to Ugirashebuja, cybersecurity is an issue of profound importance in today’s technology-driven world, a fact of life for all of us. “Rwanda greatly appreciates Interpol’s continued support in the fight against cybercrime and its effort in enabling African countries to engage in discussions with experts and learn from their experiences on diverse aspects of cybercrime,” said Ugirashebuja. He added that; “As the world continues to recover from the disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, practices including the increased use of virtual workspaces, online marketplaces and e-Governance have become the norm. While this presents opportunities to revamp economies and streamline public service delivery in general and justice in particular, it unfortunately and simultaneously increases exposure to cybercrime.” According to the 2021 Interpol cyber threats assessment report, the highest-reported and most pressing cyber threats across the region was identified as online scamming. This targets and takes advantage of victims’ fears, insecurities, and vulnerabilities through phishing, mass mailing and social engineering. There is also a sharp increase in the number of online banking scams, including instances of banking and credit card fraud. Cybercrime is not only a question of attacks against the confidentiality, integrity and availability of computer data as well as systems, it is also against the core values and the potentiality of human development in societies increasingly relying on information technology,” said the Minister. Africa has more than 500 million Internet users, placing the region ahead of other regions such as North America, South America, and the Middle East. This volume of users relative to population equates to about 38%, which implies the number is expected to grow in the coming years, given the accelerated digitalization. The Secretary General of Interpol, Jürgen Stock tweeted about the event saying that, “Cybercrime is borderless, bringing many challenges to investigations and prosecutions. Our working group meeting for heads of cybercrime units in Africa with the Ministry of Justice, Rwanda Investigations Bureau (RIB), and Interpol Africa will help develop and strengthen the regional and international response.” In his address, Jeannot Ruhunga, Secretary General of RIB said, “The speed of technological advancement, increasing globalisation, and exponential growth of global markets have created opportunities for criminal activities using new forms of anonymity often with low risk detection. As technology continues to evolve, so do the opportunities and challenges it provides.” He called for a continued international cooperation through joint trainings and exchange of information on new cyber threats and tools to deal with them Since 2018, RIB has handled 256 cases of cybercrimes that involved a total of Rwf 1,647,963,709 and US$ 659,280. The highest number of cases were recorded in the year 2020-2021 and they totalled to 254 cases. However, the year 2019-2020 had cases with the biggest amount stand at Rwf 1,027,567,721 and US$ 417,586. Meanwhile, the Interpol cyber threats assessment report also indicates that digital extortion is also rampant in Africa and according to the report, it targets individuals with either allegation of sexually compromising images or through direct blackmail campaigns. “While such threats are not new on the threat landscape, the move towards a digital society – particularly within Africa has created new attack vectors for criminals to both cloud their identity and target new victims. Alongside online scams, Business Email Compromise (BEC) was also identified as a significant concern and threat to Africa as indicated in the Interpol report. Businesses and organizations that rely heavily on wire transfer transactions are vulnerable to this threat in Africa,” add the report. Interpol says that the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to the increase in this type of cybercrime. Statistics indicate that 90% of African businesses in Africa are operating without the necessary cybersecurity protocols in place but this has not stopped attacks from happening. A research study from Deloitte estimates that the financial loss for financial institutions in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zambia since 2011 to be more than US$ 245 million. Another research study from a Kenyan IT cybersecurity company, Serianu, highlighted that cybercrime reduced GDP within Africa by more than 10%, at a cost of an estimated US$4.12 billion in 2021. The KnowBe4 African Report 2019 pointed out that phishing was one of the top cyber threats in Africa while INTERPOL’s private partner Kaspersky detected that South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, Nigeria, Rwanda and Ethiopia had about 2 million phishing attempts in 2020 alone.