Technology has become integrated in all aspects of our daily lives. As technology is an ever-growing field, there are many inventions that are changing rapidly. One of the main technological creations is the internet. As the fastest growing infrastructure in our daily lives, the internet has created a world of its own (Gade and Reddy, 2014). The internet is used for multiple purposes. However, some of the main uses of the internet are sending electronic emails and dispersing commercial advertisements. Therefore, as the internet plays such a vital role in the lives of millions of people and could be a tool to access the private information of its users, it requires thorough regulation. However, due to the emerging upgrades in this rapidly changing field, a comprehensive regulation could be difficult (Gade and Reddy, 2014). Hence the protection of cyber security has become a concern for many governments. As the scope of cyber security extends to more than simply protecting the information of internet users, it also covers the security of the cyber space as a whole. As a result, enhancing and improving cyber security is necessary for the general economic and social well-being of internet users. Therefore, making the internet safer has become a main goal for many governments in creating their policies. In that sense, African countries have been drafting new laws and policies to deal with this emerging issue. Therefore, this article shall focus on the progress and challenges faced in North Africa, West Africa, and East Africa.
Governments, individuals and businesses in the North Africa are implementing connected digital technologies and applications on a massive scale in a process known as digitisation. The successful adoption of digitization by countries of the North Africa puts them at a greater risk of multiple cybercrimes and cyber–attacks (Hashem, 2019). These attacks can destroy the entire digitization process and disrupt the benefits provided by digital initiatives. Governments, businesses and individuals in the North Africa are striving and putting measures in place to ensure a secure digital environment and mitigate the effect of these attacks. However, these measures take a long time to plan, do not involve the participation of all essential stakeholders and usually ends up being circumvented and reactive (Aboul–Enein, 2017).
Consequently, Governments, individuals and enterprises plagued by cyber attacks are continuously developing innovative ways to solve the problem of cyber crime. For instance, Egypt utilized astrategic approach to their national cyber security issues by developing an Egyptian cybersecurity and Critical Information Infrastructure Protection (CIIP) framework which was initiated in 2007, within a working group at the Egyptian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (Hashem, 2019).The first execution step was the establishment of the Egyptian national Computer Emergency Readiness Team (EG-CERT) in April 2009. It provides support to several entities in the ICT sector, the financial sector as well as the governmental sector, in order to help them tackle Cybersecurity threats and deal with cyber incidents and denial of service (DDOS) attacks. EG-CERT provides both reactive and proactive services, including incident handling, malware analysis, penetration testing, vulnerability assessment, and cyber forensics (Hashem, 2019).
Although countries in North Africa continue to strive to solve these problems, there are several root causes that provides an enabling environment for cyber security challenges. Some of the root causes include Cyber terrorism, Cyber–attacks on energy installations, financial infrastructure, transport infrastructure as well as nuclear security, lack of critical infrastructure, poor educational system, Internet gender gap and the general situation of the economy(Strategy&, 2020). As long as the aforementioned issues are not forestalled or improved upon, the challenges of cyber security in the North Africa will continue to linger.
In the new global economy, cyber security has become a central issue for discussion on traditional and social media platforms amongst individuals. Cyber-space is one of the fastest-growing areas of technical infrastructure development and this has provided West African businesses, industries, not-for-profit organizations and governments with several opportunities because of its ability to connect individuals, communities and countries from every corner of the world (Makeri, 2017; Iorliam, 2019).
However, fraudsters in West Africa, particularly Nigeria, have turned the cyber-space to a hub for various criminal activities like identity theft, credit card fraud, phishing, forgery and financial embezzlement (Frank and Odunayo, 2013; Jenab and Moslehpour, 2016). In 2017, Nigeria was ranked as the most fraudulent country in Africa and third globally in cybercrimes by the Nigerian Communications Commission (Iorliam, 2019).
In West Africa, Cyber security has been identified as the mechanism to protect systems and data against fundamental cyber threats like cyber espionage, cyber warfare and cyber terrorism. Also, it is used by various organizations to guard the integrity and reliability of networks, programs and data from damage, attack or unauthorized access (Oforji, Udensi and Ibegbu, 2017;Iorliam, 2019). Cyber security can be procedures, applications or other forms of sophisticated technology (Oforji, Udensi and Ibegbu, 2017).
Several authors have identified the challenges of cyber security in West Africa to include poor law enforcement, deficiency of technical know-how, unemployment, poverty, lack of infrastructure, limited levels of consciousness of ICT-related security concerns, proliferation of cybercafés and corruption (Frank and Odunayo, 2013;Makeri, 2017; Oforji, Udensi and Ibegbu, 2017). The mass lay-offs, unrealistic job eligibility criteria, lack of basic amenities and general lack of control over internet users have greatly contributed to the status of West African countries on cyber security (Makeri 2017). Similarly, the global pandemic has increased the fears of more unprecedented cybercrimes and there are speculations on the ripple effect Covid-19 and the lockdown will have in helping or worsening the issue of cyber security in West Africa.
The challenge of cyber security in East Africa Security is the quality or state of being secure, to be free from danger. Alternatively, it is building protection against adversaries. Information technology has revolutionized changing the way business is transacted, government operates and national defense is conducted. All three functions depend on an independent network of critical information infrastructures known as “cyberspace”. To secure cyberspace a national and international policy shall be defined in order to prevent or minimize disruptions to critical information infrastructures and protect human beings, the economy, the essential human and government services and the national security. Disruptions that occur shall be infrequent, of minimal duration and manageable and cause the least damage possible. Despite the important facts mentioned above there is no functional cyberspace security policy in Ethiopia currently. ICT development programs have very little focus on security components. The national network infrastructure and telecommunications service provider also perform duties without clearly defined national strategy procedures and guidelines. However, it is utilizing firewalls, network Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS), Dial-up protection and packet filtering mechanisms to protect the internet infrastructure, corporate VPNs and Leased lines which still are not sufficient enough. Different initiatives have been taken starting 2001 coming to a common understanding and formed a joint technical committee which follows up the process of formulating security policy and standards. Additionally, for the implementation of information security there are many human resource issues that must be addressed. In East Africa there is shortage of information security professionals. Among the major challenges in East Africa, cyber security policy and standards are on a minimal to inexistent level. Information security law, ethics and relevant legislations concerning the management of information in an organization is not developed. Staffing of information security function has to count on the upcoming generation of professionals to have the correct mix of skills and experience necessary to anticipate and manage the complex information security issues. Information security issue is not only a problem that technology alone can address but the coming together of all other infrastructures as well.
As the internet technology keeps growing every day, the new cyber tools and threats increase as well. Therefore, they are challenging organizations in securing their infrastructure further and are requiring new platforms and intelligence as well. While there is no perfect solution for cyber crimes, African countries have attempted to tackle this issue through different approaches. Although some countries like Egypt have adopted a comprehensive framework, cybercrimes continue to exist due to the receding economic conditions and lack of proper education. Moreover, some countries like Ethiopia have done less effort in this direction, which has caused cybercrimes to prevail even more. Finally, some countries in West Africa, like Nigeria, have adopted legal tools, but still need proper enforcement and further development in the execution of a comprehensive framework. Therefore, the fight against cyber crime needs a comprehensive and a safer approach. As technical measures on their own cannot prevent any crime, it is essential to enable law enforcementinstitutions to investigate and prosecute effectively. It is also essential for governments to adopt multifaceted policies that would tackle the issue as a whole.
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