Cybersecurity efforts mobilise local innovative solutions

The national competition on protecting cyber space was concluded yesterday with 12 winners taking away laptops and other facilities. Michel Nkurunziza.

The national competition on protecting cyberspace wrapped up this week awarding 12 innovative solutions with laptops and other prizes.

The competition that attracted contestants from universities across the country was dubbed “Cyber Stars of Rwanda”.

The contestants have been involved in pitching and developing software solutions on domains of ethical hacking (attackers), intrusion detection and security monitoring (defenders), computer forensics (responders) to come up with ICT solutions that will help Rwanda protect its cyber space.

The competition which opened in March 2018, was spearheaded by the Ministry of ICT and Innovation, in partnership with Rwanda Information Society Authority (RISA), Silencec and MTN Rwanda and attracted students from 10 local universities.

It was started as part of a framework of the implementation of National Cyber Security Capacity, Building Program and responding to identified skills gap.

 Over 400 ICT students from various universities had made initial applications with 52 of them making it to the grand Finale.

 Chief Executive Officer of Rwanda Information Society Authority (RISA) Innocent Bagamba Muhizi, said the competition is part of growing local experts in ensuring safety in Rwanda’s cyber space.

“This is a true testimony that Rwanda can protect its cyber space. We will keep organizing such completions. The skills you have acquired are very important, please use them ethically. Use them well and make us defend well the cyber space of this country,” he told the competitors.

The move, he said, ensures safety of institutions, financial companies and Telecommunication companies among other.

According to figures from Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB), financial institutions and telecommunication firms are the main target of cyber criminals who have made away with Rwf7.4 billion from private institutions since the beginning of this year.

This was done during the process to transfer money, execute electronic payments and running ATMs.

Companies and individuals are also targeted through hacking, blackmail and identity theft among other crimes.

Central bank statistics indicate that in 2017, they recorded about 150,000 network attacks and about eight million suspicious connections. Over the last 5 years, Rwanda’s financial sector has recorded 705 fraud cases amounting to Rwf5.7B.

Police last year registered 80 incidences involving about Rwf 2.6B, most of which they said was successfully recovered through joint efforts of the Police and Central Bank.

However, last year’s figure doubles the 2016 amounts which were about Rwf 1.3B which points at increased vulnerability and threats by fraudsters.

The problem is however not unique to Rwanda, a recent study showed that African countries are reported to have lost at least $2B in cyber-attacks in 2016. In the region, Kenya recorded the highest losses at $171 million while Tanzania lost $85 million and Uganda $35 million.

Experts say that among the approaches of the fraudsters include accessing and hacking bank systems, electronic money transfers while others connive with Bank staff.

Other common fraudulent activities also involve point of sale machines and identity theft among others.

Kevin Nyawakira; a student pursuing Networking and Communications at the Adventist University of Central Africa (AUCA), who is among the 12 winners said: “I am thrilled to be the overall winner. Having been the best attacker does not mean I am going to attack institutions; I am going to use the skills positively: I will help companies in testing their securities to fight different attacks against them.”