Cameroon in Catch 22 to capture cybercriminals
from NGALA Killian CHIMTOM in Yaounde, Cameroon
YAOUNDE, (CAJ News) – CAMEROON, which is among the countries worst affected by cybercrime in the African continent, is facing a dilemma as it adopts measures to address the crisis.
The central African country plans to upskill professionals and youth with technology expertise to thwart cybercriminals but there are fears such could backfire as the beneficiaries could use the skills attained to commit similar acts, hence worsen the problem.
Owing to the prevalence of these crimes that involve the use computer networks or devices to fraud and identity theft, Police Commissioner, N’tangh Bay Emile, has called for the training of “a new generation of policemen” who would be able to monitor the Cameroon cyberspace and keep the criminals at bay.
“Cyber police officers should be trained and assigned specific roles like identifying, locating and tracking down cyber criminals. Even though we are already doing this, it is still on a limited scale that needs to be expanded,” the police head said.
Cameroon has launched a systematic crackdown on cybercrime.
Last year, a Center for Digital Forensic and Cyber Security was set up under the University of Buea in partnership with the Cameroon ministry of Posts and Telecommunications and the University of Bloomsburg in the United States.
“Our intention is to train young Cameroonians on how to protect the country’s cyberspace. In the case of an attack, the trained Cameroonians will be able to mitigate its effects and bring the perpetrators to face the law,” said Joan Waka, the director of the centre.
The center will train lawyers, magistrates, Attorneys General and law enforcement officers among others.
Emile said the experts trained would also help unmask perpetrators of crimes such as murder, embezzlement, kidnapping, human trafficking and accounting fraud.
Waka is wary of the plans going wrong.
“We must be careful to give the skills to people who have a sense of patriotism and high ethical standards. We must avoid arming people who would use the knowledge to bring down the Government,” she told CAJ News.
Cybercrime is a major concern in Cameroon.
The Director General of the National Agency for Information and Communication Technologies (Antic), Ebot Enaw, said in 2015, local banks lost at least CFA 3 billion (more than US$5 million) through acts of skimming.
Skimming consists of criminals hacking magnetic cards with special devices inserted in automated teller machines.
“After pirating the electronic bank card details of unsuspecting customers, criminals then go to ATMs and withdraw money from the bank accounts of their victims,” Ebot said in an interview.
The danger posed by skimming nonetheless pales in comparison to “SIM box” fraud.
A SIM box is a device that enables people abroad to place calls at local tariffs, causing huge financial losses to companies as well as the Treasury.
In October 2015, all four telephone operators in Cameroon, namely MTN, Orange, CAMTEL and NEXTEL revealed that they had lost significant amounts of money to the phenomenon.
The illicit activity cost local telephone companies CFA 18 billion and the state CFA 4 billion in 2015.
Philisiwe Sibiya, the Chief Executive Officer of MTN Cameroon, said fraudsters diverted “close to 60 million minutes” of international call traffic through SIM box fraud during the period.
Cyber criminality in Cameroon also manifest itself through “we defacement.”
Through this, criminals change the interface of a website, fake profiles on social networks and hacking into emails to con citizens.
Government departments have not been spared.
Ebot said at least 20 government establishments including the National Assembly and the Cameroon Radio Television had fallen prey.
“About 90 percent of the software and operating systems used in Cameroon have been hacked,” he added.
While the criminals excel in attacking the websites of prominent institutions, they constantly change their own websites and e-mails, making them hard to monitor.
“Antic was able to unveil some 100 cases where cyber criminals attacked websites in an attempt to get the e-mails of some personalities while some 700 cases of ‘scamming’ were uncovered,” Ebot disclosed.
Cameroon ranks third behind Nigeria and Ghana in terms of countries worst affected by cybercrime on the continent.
Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, Minette Libom Li Likeng, told CAJ News it was thus necessary for Cameroon to protect its cyberspace.
“We must keep these criminals at bay,” Likeng said.
– CAJ News
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