Over a billion cyber threats were reported in Kenya in the last quarter of 2023 / Photo: Getty Images.

By Dayo Yusuf

Cyber rogues are ceaselessly innovating and outpacing the development of defences against online crime.

Unless they match the relentless pace set by their elusive adversaries, governments, companies and individuals risk being perpetual pawns in this high-stakes game. The race is on, and the clock is ticking.

Yusuph Kileo, a cybersecurity expert and digital crimes analyst based in Tanzania, paints a chilling picture.

"We have been witnessing not just a surge in online crimes but also a diversification in methodology and target profile," he tells TRT Afrika. "Yet, the full extent remains shrouded in mystery, as countless crimes slip under the radar, unreported."

In Kenya, the cybercrime landscape is particularly bleak. Officials reported a staggering leap to over a billion cyber threats in the last quarter of 2023 alone, a significant escalation from the 123 million reported in the previous quarter.

This grim reality has cast a long shadow over the future of cybersecurity in the country.

In response to such alarming figures, the ministry of information, communication and technology (ICT) has announced sweeping measures nationwide.

"The government is bolstering its threat detection systems and equipping staff with the skills to combat such threats," says Edward Kisiang'ani, principal secretary for broadcast and telecommunications. "We are eager to join forces with regional countries to tackle cross-border cyber threats."

Countless cybercrimes slip under the radar, unreported. Photo: Getty Images 

Nobody is safe

So, how do individual internet users and corporate entities balance leveraging the power of fast-evolving technology and stemming security breaches?

"Cybercrime is indiscriminate, but certain targets are hit harder than others," Kileo tells TRT Afrika.

"We have seen a surge of attacks on financial institutions like banks. Pensioners are also being targeted online, often losing their life savings. Hospitals, too, have become easy pickings for criminals harvesting personal data across many African countries."

Perhaps the most disturbing trend is the targeting of children, who, in addition to being tricked into losing money, are sometimes coerced into online pornography or fall victim to human trafficking.

"These older people or children are targeted because they have less understanding of online crime," explains Kileo.

Tanzania, for instance, has implemented a strategic policy against crimes initiated online targeting children.

The Child Online Protection Act, enacted this year, aims to shield children from online criminals, aligning with other countries in the region. The strategy will be tested for a year, after which its effectiveness will be evaluated to inform a longer-term policy.

The strategy revolves around countrywide sensitisation programmes about cyber safety, periodic policy revision to address new challenges, and activation of "gadget guards" since most kids now have access to these.

Data shows that even the more tech-savvy youth are not immune to cyber fraud.

"We see these young people trading online with cryptocurrencies and complaining they lost all their money to dubious trades or were misled into spending all their money," Kileo tells TRT Afrika.

Cyber Attacks

Legal safeguards

Many countries have laws in place to combat cybercrime. But experts say the challenge lies in their enactment.

"However stringent the laws are, they are not the panacea for crime," says Kileo. "If you have a law in place but the people do not understand it, or if those enforcing it are not empowered enough to deal with the challenges, they are redundant."

Also, cybercrime is not confined to a specific location. It does not discriminate based on where a victim or target is. For this reason, experts emphasise the importance of full cooperation between organisations within a country and across borders, especially in sharing intelligence.

Given the framework, what can one do to keep cybercriminals at bay?

First and foremost, it is crucial to realise that you are your own protector, and the primary responsibility to safeguard yourself and your data rests with you, experts advise.

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TRT Afrika