Africa-Press – Cape verde. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world as we know it. Crucially, we have seen a marked acceleration in the global adoption of online and digital platforms in a variety of sectors ranging from education to work collaboration tools to financial services, all of which brings about new sets of cyber security challenges.
Online and digital business platforms are, of course, nothing new, and they certainly predate the advent of the pandemic. However, the global crisis has given impetus to trends that were already becoming an integral part of life in the 21st century even in countries traditionally less reliant on technology.
Africa is now one of the fastest growing regions taking part in the digital economy where people across the continent have become quick and enthusiastic adopters of global innovation trends.
But this rapid change comes with significant risks, not least of which is the potential for cybercrime, as greater numbers of the African population move online and become increasingly reliant on digital platforms to conduct business, access product and services, and transact financially.
According to a recently released document from the global police agency Interpol, the African Cyberthreat Assessment Report, there are five types of cybercrimes that have become more prevalent than ever before on the continent: online scams, digital extortion, business email compromise, ransomware and botnets.
Africa has more than 500 million internet users, placing the continent ahead of regions such as North America, South America, and the Middle East in terms of the absolute number of people online.
This volume equates to 38% of Africa’s population, which implies there is room for growth in the continent’s use of internet services in the coming years, as levels of connectivity and uptake trend upwards. These will be driven by lower connection costs, greater innovation and rising digital literacy. According to the report, the leading countries are Kenya with 83% of its population online, Nigeria with 60% and South Africa with 56%.
Mobile banking in particular is noted to be used widely within these three countries, contributing to Africa’s active role in digital financial services, the report finds.People who use online banking, cross-border money transfers, and other financial services, must remain vigilant in order to remain safe online.
WorldRemit, a leading global payments company, advises that users adopt a few basic safety protocols to avoid falling victim to any of the various forms of cybercrime.
Confirm receipt of identity and method: Whether it is cash pickup, mobile money, or bank transfer, it is important that customers ensure they include the recipient’s full legal name, as the bank in the receiving country will match their identification with the transfer information.
Speed is of the essence: Pick a service that ensures your money reaches its intended destination quickly and safely. Also check if the platform you are using has a 24-hour customer care service that is operational.
There is a simple 3-step process to help avoid online fraud: Stop: take a moment to think before sending money or providing any information. Challenge: it’s okay to ignore or refuse requests for funds. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
Protect: contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve wired money to a scammer and report it to the relevant authorities. WorldRemit operates in 44 African countries through partnerships with local mobile network operators (MNOs)
While these partnerships offer an extra layer of protection to mobile money transfers and other online transactions, WorldRemit advises users to confirm the identity of the person they are transacting with and to take advantage of the mobile service’s security protocols to protect their identities and online accounts.
The rise in cybercrime and online scams is the corollary to the rapid digital growth fueled and accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic. In African countries where, notably, mobile banking and mobile money transfer have leapfrogged to unprecedented levels, it is incumbent on all of us to stay vigilant and beware of fraud by following the safety protocols in place and reporting suspicious activities through the proper channel.