أخبار العالمبحوث ودراسات

Cybercrimes and digital security in Africa

African Studies and research Department

The International Center for Strategic, Security and Military Studies

Written by RababHadada

Revised by Dr. BadraGaaloul

Translated by WiemSayari

Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, the African continent has been experiencing a rapid growth in the field of modern technologies, but this growth was accompanied by an expansion of cybercrimes.A Cyber crime is a crime committed using internet and modern technologies.

These technologies have harmful effects on individuals added to the economic, financial and political institutions in a direct threat to African security.The instability of digital security is considered as one of the most important risks that may be added to other security risks that Africa is experiencing, such as terrorism, piracy and smuggling networks…

Manifestations of the spread of cybercrimes

Hacking, espionage, fraud, theft and other electronic crimes have burdened the political, economic and social systems in Africa. Since 2008, 4,000 complaints have been reported before the French judicial authorities against cyber-attacks originating from Côte d’Ivoire. Despite the fact that the number is huge, it does not reflect the real number of attacks since most of those affected do not file cases of cybercrimes, and the numbers and statistics of this type of crimes are unattainable.

Annual material losses amounted to approximately $3.7 billion in 2017, including $649 million in Nigeria, $210 million in Kenya, and $157 million in South Africa, according to the Executive Report on the Risks of Digital Intelligence in Africa for the year 2018 entitled “Africa Cyber ​​Summary: The 2018 Africa Cyber Threat Intelligence Report (ACTIR) “which was completed by the” 2018 Africa Cyber ​​Security Conference (ACSC)”.These losses in 2020 amounted to $2 billion.

The phenomenon has increased as well as the professionalism of criminals, for that reason, the digital economy and digital activities on which the global system is basedwas stumbling especially since the beginning of the Covid 19 pandemic as resorting to the digital space has increased in light of the measures taken by government   such as quarantine, the prevention of traffic congestion and remote work.

The Covid 19 crisis also contributed to the growth of this phenomenon in another way. Malicious applications or files that bear the name “Covid 19” were used as a trap, which caused the theft of personal information (phone number, credit cards, bank account numbers…). The global cyber-attack on various branches of the global hotel chain Marriott International is perhaps one of the most dangerous attacks that led to the theft of personal information for more than 500 million customers.

In the first trio of 2018, Tunisia monitored 118 hacking attempts, this number raised to 23 million hacking attempts in the last trio of 2020, according to the statistics of the National Agency for Information Safety.

At the African level, attacks are becoming more and more alarming, a survey conducted by Kaspersky revealed that Africa had known 28 million digital attacks between June and August 2020.

West African countries such as Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria and Benin are the countries that suffer the most from the cybercrime crisis, for that reason ECOWAS took a decision to fight cybercrimes in the West African region at the 76th Summit of the Council of Ministers held in Abuja on August 19, 2011.

African cyber-attacks have not only harmed companies and people in the African field, but also targeted various regions of the world especially Europe . And it push the United Nations tofight this phenomenon in Africa, specifically West Africa. For that reason,the United Nations Office against Drugs and Crime ONUDCorganized the “Cyber ​​Karangué” demonstration in the Senegalese capital, Dakar for the sake of exchanging experiences in the field of digital security and protect institutions from cyber-attacks in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The threat of digital security in Africa has transcended the crisis of cybercrime targeting ordinary people and has become under a heavier threat, which is external espionage that attacks the systems of sovereign institutions. This danger does not only concern Africa. It is certain that digital security has become a challenge and an absolute priorityfor the major powers working on it. On February 21, 2019 a series of large-scale cyber-attacks targeted government institutions, intelligence, security services, and oil companies in the Middle East.

The exchange of accusations between countries in the field of electronic espionage and cyber-attacks has become frequent, as France in 2012 accused the United States of trying to penetrate the Elysee system.In 2018 the French newspaper “Le Monde “published the result of an investigation that proved that China created and controlled the digital system of the African Union headquarters, but both of the African and Chinese sides denied the validity of this information.

Reasons for the spread of cybercrime

National securityhas become an obsession that governments are working on, and it took a different dimension with digital security or cyber security, the latter is a set of means aimed at protecting programs, information, devices and applications from every cyber-attack.

Africa has become a focus point for cybercriminals. HamadounTouré, the former -General secretary of the International Federation of Communication Technologies put emphasis on the fact that Africa has become a focus point for cybercriminals. He stated that «Africa has now become a hub for cybercriminals where perpetrators can practice their illegal activities without any punishment” people escape punishment for several reasons, the most important is the absence of a comprehensive and accurate legal framework for African countries in this field.

Most countries did not create alegal framing of electronic crimes, and even the existedlegislations and the laws that have been enacted in countries as Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire, remain insufficient.

Another reason is the weak digital infrastructure that has prevented the establishment of an African digital security. African countries do not have sufficient means and mechanisms in order to achieve “an electronic sovereignty” and thus suffer from fragile security in the field of cybercrime as in other security fields.

The political,economic, socialand security-wise situation of Africa suffers continuously from crises that have become structural in most countries. Therefore, the focus on modern areas such as technology and communication are not a priority in African strategies that pay more attention to more threatening phenomena such as terrorism, smuggling, illiteracy and epidemics.

This critical situation does not prevent the emergence of some attempts to address this phenomenon after the high economic losses caused by electronic crimes, especially for banks and companies, and security threats through espionage and control of the institutions of sovereignty’s digital systems.

In 2002, the Côte d’Ivoire established the Ministry of Communication and New Technologies with the aim of supervising the establishment of a network of digital infrastructure and the development of adigital sovereignty in a country consideredas one of the countries most affected by digital crimes.

Working to achieve digital security was given importance in the African agenda, whether for sub-regional or regional organizations. As we mentioned, ECOWAS has taken a decision related to combating cybercrimeon August 19, 2011. For its part, the African Union adopted Resolution No. 473 of 2021 on human and people’s rights in relation to artificial intelligence, robotics and other modern technologiescalling on African sub-regional organizationsto take the necessary legal frameworks concerning modern technologies in Africa and put an emphasis on the impact of some electronic crimes such as misinformation and dissemination of false information and carrying out dangerous campaigns on the African people and their rights. At the end of the resolution, he called on all countries to deepen research in the field of artificial intelligence and modern technologies and their impact on Africa and the rights and freedom of people

“Electronic attacks are more dangerous than real war,” as Angela Markle puts it. Therefore, despite the deterioration of the economic and political conditions in Africait is necessary to focus on supporting digital security and achieving digital sovereignty, since modern technologies and artificial intelligence are used for political ends, such as influencing public opinion through Supporting political candidates and neglecting others, adding more crisesand calming others.

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