Is cyberspace the latest conflict frontier on the African continent?

The use of cyberspace poses risks to the African continent in the 21st Century.

In August 2012, terrorist group, Boko Haram, reportedly hacked into Nigeria’s secret service and acquired private data on current and former personnel. The ConversationIn April 2016, a group calling itself “Anonymous” was able to hack into the database of the Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and steal sensitive data. More recently, a number of South African companies’ systems were infiltrated by cyberattackers and data held for ransom. The firms included Johnny Bags food manufacturers, DSV Global and Gebers & Partners.

As a matter of practice, sensitive information is often stored in computer systems. Once the data is not securely protected, it can be stolen and be used adversely. If the computer systems are connected to the internet, offenders can manipulate the systems and access the information remotely.

Cyber-related threats don’t necessarily require the cyber criminals or hackers to be physically in a targeted organisation. Albeit the internet advantage, it has become a gateway for organised cyber criminals.

A number of countries have also taken initiatives at the local level to address cyber security threats. For example, Kenya has created the National Computer Incident Response Team Coordination Centre to offer technical services. Similarly, Ethiopia has created an agency to improve its cyber resilience.

But cyber security systems in both the private and the public sectors are still below average in many countries. A 2016 cyber security report, for example, shows that most Africa-based businesses and government online services have weak security features.

Given the importance that the cyberspace network plays in the life of modern African society, the imperative of securing this domain cannot be gainsaid.

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