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General News of Monday, 24 September 2018

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FEATURE: Is Ghana doing enough to combat rising cyber-crime?

It is widely recognized that cybercrime is on the rise across the globe – recent attempts to hack major companies and defraud consumers have demonstrated that hacker attacks are here to stay.

Yet, it is often easier to focus on what is going on elsewhere and not pay enough attention to what you could do at home to prevent similar devastating attacks from happening. Is Ghana doing enough to protect its citizens from online breaches?

The State of Play in Ghana

Ghana was lucky enough to not have been hit by some of the most major attacks recently; according to a report published on on May 15th, 2017, the WannaCry attack that brought major companies across more than 150 countries to their knees did not target Ghana.

Only Nigeria, Egypt, Mozambique, Niger, Morocco, Tanzania, Tunisia and South Africa were hit – with the latter suffering the most. While it might have escaped some of the worst hacking incidents we have seen lately, Ghana is no stranger to cyber-attacks.

It was just in December 2016 that the website of the Electoral Commission was targeted during one of the country’s most heated election rounds.

The hackers managed to gain access and publish fake electoral results as the votes were still being counted, showing opposition leader Akufo-Addo leading with almost 55% – who ironically went on to win the elections by a narrow margin.

The Electoral Commission admitted to the breach on Twitter and urged voters to not pay attention to the fake results. Yet the incident had sparked debate about cybersecurity in Ghana and what government institutions and companies can do to prevent similar breaches.

Most companies would profit from implementing a data breach containment and mitigation internal policy, as well as putting in place safeguards like a Web Application Firewall (WAF). A WAF can help protect websites from application layer attacks like zero-day threats and SQL injections, by filtering all incoming traffic and preventing malicious requests. However, cybersecurity awareness seems low in Ghana – which is why the government needs to take action.

Cyber-criminals Will Pose a Greater Threat in 2018

Although Ghana has taken legislative steps towards fighting cybercrime, it still lags behind in many respects. It was just in August 2014 that the Ghana National CERT was set up and in July 2015 that a comprehensive National Cyber Security Policy and Strategy was approved, all through the efforts of the Ministry of Communications.

Yet, just last year, the Inspector General of the Police, Mr. Alhassan, spoke out against rising cyber-crime trends and warned that more and more hackers are taking advantage of new technologies to target individuals and businesses with severe financial consequences.

The IGP gave the speech in the context of a training seminar for police officers who were chosen to participate in ICT courses in Accra, organized by the Police Training School. They would learn the basics of ethical hacking and working both in Linux and in MS Office, in hopes that they would head police ICT centers across the country.

Earlier this year, on February 26th, 2018, reported that Ghana is projected to suffer $100 in financial damages in 2018, unless steps are taken to raise awareness and implement measures.

This figure is double what Ghana suffered two years ago, as it is estimated that the economy lost roughly $50 million in 2016 due to the actions of cybercriminals.

In the face of these bleak projections, efforts to train the police and pass relevant legislation seem absolutely necessary – but not nearly enough. The government should focus more resources in this fight so that businesses and citizens in Ghana do not suffer greater consequences in the near future.