The world experienced cyberhack catastrophe with thousands of victims crying foul.
A shady hacker crew called Shadow Brokers, according to reports, has been rapidly spreading a ransomware variant called WannaCry across the world. The ransomware has hit UK hospitals, with multiple sources reporting closures of entire wards, patients being turned away and some National Health Service (NHS) staff being sent home.
Barts Health, a central London NHS trust, advised patients to look for assistance elsewhere and said ambulances were being diverted elsewhere, while another NHS organization said it had to turn away outpatients and limit its radiology services, according to Forbs Online.
Rwanda is no far from such a risk.
Despite government endeavors and professional experts’ inputs, cybercrime is on an upward curve due to the increasing number of online services available and the evolving nature of cyber criminals’ constant play of cat and mouse games with security organs.
The presence of new technological innovations pose equally potent threats, for instance data migration to third party cloud providers creates a data epicenter thus giving chances to misappropriate crucial information from a sole target.
In this case, the five main technological threats in Africa are social media at 50%, cyber-attacks at 39%, cloud computing at 34%, mobile applications at 27% and data mining and analytics at 25%.
Recently, a hacker group named Anonymous made a security breach on Broadband Systems Corporation (BSC), a state firm that provides the Rwandan government with video conferencing technology and other services such as internet connectivity. The hacker dumped the company’s confidential data on the Internet. The data contained detailed information on its employees and their contacts, encrypted passwords and email exchanges. The same group has also hacked websites in South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan, Zimbabwe, Sudan and Ethiopia.
Rwanda has been on cyber alert after Internet hackers, Anonymous recently threatened to expose “increasing corruption” by attacking government websites.
The government has made strides towards that end and heavily invested in the ICT sector. The National Cyber Security Policy was passed by Senate in 2014 to safeguard government infrastructure and information from cyber-attacks. In addition, a $3million cyber security system was established to protect public and private institutions against online crimes.
The Minister for Youth and ICT Jean Philbert Nsengimana has explained how the system operates. That it utilizes digital signatures and certificates to replace stamps and papers for official transactions and procurement procedures to monitor and validate the authenticity and integrity of software, messages and digital documents.
The system is being piloted in two government institutions and sensitization for public workers is underway in addition to the establishment of the National Computer Security and Incident Response Centre. In an effort to boost the fight against cyber-crime, the government plans to put up another agency with the aim of coordination of cyber security initiatives to clear out inconsistencies and work duplication among agencies.
Figures indicate that Internet user penetration in Rwanda has risen up to approximately 12.4% in 2016 up from less than 1% in 2005. Yet, smartphones have become easy targets providing chances for bypassing security measures.
It is therefore wise to empower the users so as to reduce cybercrimes by; ensuring that the updates on operating systems or software are current, run antivirus programs regularly, never give out personal identity information online as it can be easily intercepted to avoid identity theft.
Turn on personal firewalls and test them. Avoid spyware which mostly comes from free software downloads use strong passwords and finally backup important files.
Cyber security should be definite regardless of user, organization or business standing since criminals always target computer networks.
Increased Internet connections create more opportunities of security breaches, however, the proper level of preparedness and professional expertise is crucial to minimize damage control and data recovery options after cyber breach and consequences.
That said how secure are Rwandans? That should be, I guess, food for thought.
Nicholas Katende is pursuing PhD IT, Msc Data Communication, and BCSIT. He is an Associate Dean For Evening and Weekend Programmes at the University of Kigali
E-mail: [email protected] or [email protected],