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Africa Must Amp Up Cybersecurity: Analysts

FILE - The inside of a computer is seen in Jersey City, N.J., Feb 23, 2019. A ransomware attack paralyzed the networks of at least 200 U.S. companies July 2, 2021, according to a cybersecurity researcher.

Cybersecurity analysts are sounding the alarm with an urgent call for action by policymakers as Africa grows a thriving digital economy.

There's a surge in cybercrime activities in Africa due to the growing number of cyberspaces and mobile money transfers.

World Wide Worx analyst Bryan Turner told VOA ''In 2022 already, we've seen hundreds of thousands of cyber-attacks throughout the continent with the biggest targets being wealthy nations - South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya.''

The Johannesburg-based Turner adds “'The average person on the street is susceptible to scams like the 419 scams (a postal fraud crime commonly initiated by e-mail) which are still very popular - and [via] phishing.”

Cyber Africa Forum founder Franck Kie tells VOA that Russia's invasion of Ukraine has revealed the need to tackle digital wars on the continent, saying ''today's war is not only physical but digital.''

He says operations by cybercriminals have become more sophisticated due to increased globalization, hence the need for regional and continental cooperation in Africa to reinforce the cybersecurity space. And not just for the general public.

Kie, also president of Ivory Coast-based NGO Ciberobs, said ''Recently, we have seen a lot of military coups in West Africa, and so African governments should get prepared for digital war.''

As Africa has adopted mobile money transfers, the crime risk has also grown. In 2019, 200 million users made over 24 billion mobile transfer transactions in Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and the Middle East according to Statista. That's nearly 64% of global transfers.

Kie told VOA that ‘’telecom operators have thus become banks as well because they transact money, and so it is crucial for the banks to reinforce their cybersecurity. They're obliged to have the necessary security standards to protect the billions of transactions made via their networks.''

He offers this prescription: ''To improve cybersecurity in Africa, we need a holistic regulatory framework, investments in infrastructure - security operation centers that control the cyberspace, and investments in human resources - local manpower need to be trained to defend (the cyberspace)."