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“Hackers smell blood now, not metals”
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“Hackers smell blood now, not metals”

With rapid expansion of the internet comes ever more sophisticated opportunity for cybercrime. Metolo Foyet, 20, a Correspondent from Cameroon now living in Niger, looks at our online vulnerabilities, and at how to battle back.

Have you ever been in trouble? A trouble so huge that your life was at stake and you were ready to do the unthinkable to get out of it? Have you ever been acquainted with a troublemaker? So bad was the dude that you would greatly up the pay to get free of him?

Well, I was in both situations in 2010: my email account was hacked by Mr. Cyber Criminal, the wicked troublemaker! I was so annoyed by the incident that I felt the urge to understand how on earth that dude – sitting wherever I don’t know – was able to access what I thought then was my virtual safe.

It might be around that time that my interest in cybersecurity grew… but it was only a few months ago that I realised the hackers of seven years ago have evolved into technological vampires. They don’t smell ATM cards anymore, or dig into email accounts.They suck blood in the form of highly classified information, business’ and governments’ well-stocked accounts – exactly anything that will literally kill you once you run short of it!

The digital economy is evolving at a whirlwind speed. With it has amplified a new threat, along with the pecuniary and deliberate stakes that run with that threat: cybercrime. According to Quarshie & Odoom (2012), a lot of cybercrime emanates from Africa, and threats spread easily because many servers and computers are not properly protected. A Deloitte survey (2011) says banks in five east African countries alone lost US$245 million to cyber fraud. The wild development of the internet has created doors for executing cybercrime on a universal level and to misuse the innate vulnerabilities in endlessly developing technology. As African nations surge in their access to broadband internet, and as issues identified with cybercrime and cybersecurity are rising, there is a need to guarantee that populations, businesses and governments are secure.

For credibility sake, I asked a friend and cybersecurity expert, James Agyemang, to tell me more about the subject. Having founded NerdTech / Mail Server Protection, a security intelligence agency that aims at fighting cyber criminality by protecting and defending apps, data, digital privacy, devices, internet service providers, infrastructure, e-commerce, corporate and government bodies, and people, James stressed that cybercrime is currently one of the greatest privacy threats in the world. It is expected to reach about four billion people by 2020, with the damage costs estimated to hit $6 trillion annually by 2021. As the world goes digital, humans have moved ahead of machines as the top target for cyber criminals.

“There are about 400 million casualties of cybercrime every year,” notes Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit.

As you can imagine, some of these technical terms used to get my mind into a total tohubohu. To make it simple, I asked James how exactly his company was helping people. He replied that NerdTech guarantees to keep customers’ loyalty and trust, protect brand reputation, strengthen information risk management and business continuity, secure human factors, leadership and governance, legal and compliance. It accesses the client’s posture, resilience and susceptibility to cyberattacks and fixes the problem.

Well, he did try to simplify things for our understanding! Don’t you think the world would gain a lot if nerds could speak normally?

Going ahead with my research and having gone through the report “Cyber Crime and Cyber Security Trends in Africa (2016)” co-edited by the African Union and Symantec, I understood that one prominent way to fight cybercrime is to enact and implement laws specific to the matter. Due to the cross border and international nature of cybercrime, national legislation cannot be drafted in isolation. National governments in Africa must seek to harmonise national legislation, regulations, standards and guidelines on cybersecurity issues in order to create effective regional and international frameworks for fighting cybercrime.

Cybercrime is gradually paralysing Africa’s growth, and the continent is seriously in need of white-hat hackers! Are you one? Are you like James, into IT? Would you rather be an angel than a demon; do you have a knack for cat and mouse play?

If yes, you certainly have an aptitude for cybersecurity. It is an arena where cybersecurity pros or experts (the angels) are set against cybercriminals (the demons). Supposing you would want to be an angel – a career that means job security (because the world will still need your services in the next half-century, if you aren’t already pushing up daisies), a six-figure income and the potential for upward mobility.

That is heaven. But if you want to be a demon, remember, hell will never be too far!

Photo credit: Hivint Security Stock-11148 via photopin (license)

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About me: I am a social entrepreneur with focus on education, agriculture and cybersecurity.

I have a track record of adding value to organisations by delivering innovative projects that engage stakeholders and expertise in public affairs, strategic communications, translation, research and development, product design, grassroots development and project management across the not-for-profit and private sectors.

I paint, write, and am an environmental, travel and sports enthusiast. I envision a career in the public service, especially the UN.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/

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