Financial institutions and telecommunication firms were the main target of cyber criminals who stole Rwf7.4 billion from private institutions since the beginning of this year, members of the Parliamentary Committee on Education, ICT, Culture and Youth heard yesterday.
Rwanda has been witnessing a rise in cybercrime – criminal activities carried out by means of computers or the Internet – due to the advancements in the area of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).
Addressing the committee as one of the institutions invited to provide an update on access to ICT and how it has been adopted in delivering public service, the Director-General for Crime Investigation at Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB), Jean Marie Twagirayezu, said cyber criminals usually targeted their victims during the process to transfer money, execute electronic payments and running ATMs.
Companies and individuals, he added, are also targeted through hacking, blackmail and identity theft among other crimes.
RIB says that, last year, 80 cybercrime cases valued at Rwf2.5 billion were filed, up from the 74 cases that were filed in 2016, which led to a loss of Rwf1.34 billion.
Ruhunga said that a cybercrime centre and team had been set up but there was need for more infrastructure and training in order to cope with the modern crime.
“We need more protective infrastructure that can look into threats and how to contain them. We also need to create synergy between institutions to seal gaps that may be taken advantage of by cyber criminals,” he said.
He also mentioned that although some community awareness programmes were rolled out, there was need to intensify them since cyber criminals take advantage of the ignorance of most of their victims.
“We need to intensify the awareness campaigns and teach the masses how to detect this crime and how to avoid falling victim. These crimes are new to most of our local people but they are also growing fast,” he said.
Ruhunga told the lawmakers that there are challenges that come with emerging crimes.
For instance, he said, cybercrimes do not necessarily require the suspect to be in the same country with their victim, making detection and follow-up quite complex.
This, he explained, is compounded by the slow exchange of information on cybercrimes committed outside Rwanda, which slows down the process to arrest and prosecute the suspects.
The Minister for ICT and Innovation, Paula Ingabire, told the MPs that though internet penetration currently stands at slightly over 44 per cent, the country’s vision was to eventually hit the 100 per cent target.
She, however, said that affordability is still a challenge.
“It’s all a process. Our baseline decision is that there is infrastructure. What we do is work with the private sector to incentivise goods and services. With digital literacy and affordability, we will eventually get there,” she said.
MP Justine Umukobwa said that though Rwanda is working towards being a regional IT hub, there is still much that is needed in terms of infrastructure.
“Some schools have computers but they have been shelved because there is no internet and no electricity and it is worrying. Rwanda wants to be an IT hub but then looking at the infrastructure we are still lagging behind and there is still a long road ahead of us,” she said.
This year, a new cyber law was passed with new penalties against identity theft, which means identification of another person with the intent to commit unlawful activities.
The other provisions include penalties against fraudulent use of a digital signature and cyber-squatting, which is a practice of registering names, especially well-known company or brand names, as well as Internet domains, in the hope of reselling them at a profit.