KIGALI, RWANDA – Rwanda has made no secret of its ambition to become a major regional IT hub.
However visiting experts have warned that lack of strong cyber security system could cripple the country’s efforts.
Sheldon Hand, the Territory Manager, Indian Ocean islands, East and Central Africa for Symantec SA(Pty) Limited, said that trends in cyber crime have shifted.
From merely dishing out threats, unscrupulous hackers have become dangerous dealers of disruptive viruses.
Others have targeted identity theft and all manner of crimes associated with stealing other peoples money in cyberspace.
All this makes both governments and businesses vulnerable.
“It no longer about blocking and providing a single solution to the threats. Attacks are becoming more specific and targeted which means you need more sophisticated tools to secure your business,” he told East African Business Week last week in Kigali.
Hand said cyber threats now target financial institutions, mobile phone manufacturers/operators and small and medium enterprises. But they prefer mainly large manufacturers who have a big clientele base.
“Now hackers are specific in targeting their threats. They are looking at a particular group, so they gather intelligence on each client,” he said.
Hand added, “So what they do is to infect one website or email which in turn infects all users or emails that are affiliated to it.”
According to these experts, the most common attacks include spam messages, mallwares and links that would direct you to the hackers’ website.
Here they are able to steal personal information that could be used to attack other people.
They can also steal passwords and copy a person’s identification details through swapping mobile phone numbers and later use it to steal money from someone’s account in the bank.
The situation is often complicated by the growth in electronic payments systems and the convenience that it offers.
Such examples include the Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), mobile money and internet bank.
Not surprisingly financial institutions are favourite hunting grounds for hackers and cyber criminals.
Against this backdrop Banque Populaire Rwandaise (BPR), had to take out expensive advertising to counter the hacking on its mobile banking platform.
Apparently, the hackers tapped into the system and sent messages to the bank’s clients announcing a new promotion that never was.
Winners were promised fabulous prizes and were asked to call a toll free line.
“As more innovations in internet come up, hackers are also developing sophisticated measures to hack into systems and carry out their fraudulent acts,” Wellars Gasamagera, a skills development expert said.
Gasamagera says that institutions like banks, should look at strengthening systems security by creating a strategic monitoring system that would help monitor new threats. This is particularly true when they share information amongst themselves to counter attacks that may shift from one institution to the other.
“Today we invest much in these tools for delivery, but we are thinking too little in thinking ahead trying to devise ways of dodging these things. We invest in firewalls to block but of course you will block and tomorrow they unlock you, so the target is not isolating yourself. You must be sure that whatever you do must be under attack,” he noted
Indeed, Patrick Nyirishema, the Head of ICT Department at Rwanda Development Board is optimistic that sensitization and setting early warning to Institutions and Small and Medium enterprises would help raise awareness of new threats that would harm businesses.
“Globally, the trend of cyber threats is increasing. Hackers know that people are unaware and use the opportunity to achieve their personal gains, so as a country that is aggressively promoting ICT, we have decided to increase public awareness of internet security,” he said
“We are giving general information to the public such as how they can make secure passwords and protect them, how they should be aware while browsing internet,” Nyirishema said.
Nyirishema said despite Rwanda having the lowest cyber threats worldwide, there is need tosensitize the public to be more vigilant while using the internet, a measure that would counter cyber crimes.
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