Cybercrime and Financial Institutions in West Africa

April 21, 2021 | by: David Kodjani

Sub-Saharan banks are particularly vulnerable to cyber attacks such as credit card fraud, phishing or even intrusions… This is mainly due to the lack of investments in cybersecurity and of qualified personnel according to analysts from the Moroccan company Dataprotect.

If the cost of cybercrime is estimated at 3.5 billion euros in Africa, against 528 billion euros globally, this does not mean that Africa is more resilient than other continents to the challenge of cybersecurity. On the contrary, according to analysts from the Moroccan company Dataprotect, founded by Ali El Azzouzi, who looked at the situation of 148 banks from the eight member countries of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (Uemoa) and three Central African countries (Gabon, Congo and DRC). 21 banking establishments participated, directly or indirectly, in this survey called "Bank fraud in sub-Saharan Africa".

More than 85% of these financial institutions say they have already been the victims of one or more cyberattacks that have resulted in damage, sometimes repeatedly. This is first of all bank card fraud (in 30% of cases) or phishing, a method which consists in pushing the person to reveal his personal information and which also represents a third of cyberattacks.

Next, in 24% of cases, are "core banking" attacks: viral infections and intrusions into information systems. Banks are finally affected by information leaks, identity theft, fraud by money transfer or withdrawals on false checks.

"Obviously, African banks are dealing with professional criminals", explain the teams of Ali El Azzouzi, who estimate that only 6% of incidents are discovered by cybersecurity employees of financial institutions in the area studied. And when they are, they are not always revealed by the institutions concerned, making the financial impact of cyber attacks difficult to assess on the continent.

Banks that have communicated on the issue have estimated their losses on average at 770,000 euros over the past few years. But Dataprotect analysts cite an average cost of 9,000 euros for each computer infected with malware. "This amount can swell quickly if the attack is not contained," they add.

To face the threat, 85% of banks surveyed by Dataprotect said they invest less than half a million euros per year in cybersecurity, while 50% said they invest between 100,000 and 500,000 euros per year. For its part, in its report "Africa's investment in cybersecurity", Orange Cyberdefense predicted in 2018 that the African market would grow from 1.5 billion euros in 2017 to more than 2.2 billion euros in 2020.

Although increasing over the last few years, this investment remains very modest compared to the losses suffered. "In terms of cybersecurity, investments must be proportional to the information risk incurred by the company. However, it is in the financial sector that the risk is greatest ", warns the Dataprotect report.

From an operational standpoint, 55% of financial institutions rely on outsourcing for their cybersecurity activities, believing that this allows them to stay focused on their core business. They also make this choice because of the difficulty of recruiting qualified staff, a problem raised by more than 85% of the banks questioned. "A cybersecurity specialist is often reluctant to work in a company where he will be professionally isolated and without the possibility of promotion in his field", explain the editors of the report, according to which only 20% of the establishments which took part in the survey take seriously the subject at arm's length.

Without fully immunizing them, their vigilance will allow them to prevent most of the intrusions. But the remaining 80% "operate with their eyes closed in a high-risk area and, once struck, will suffer maximum damage," Dataprotect analysts warn.

The Moroccan company specializing in information security operates today in more than 35 countries, with more than 500 clients including 100 banks, in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific. Its turnover exceeds 110 million dirhams (10 million euros).

Source: Young Africa

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