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Of Cybercrime in Malawi | Malawi 24 | #cybercrime | #infosec


“Everybody should want to make sure that we have the cybertools necessary to investigate Cybercrime and to be prepared to defend against them and to bring people to justice who commit it.” – Janet Reno, the first woman United States Attorney General.

What is Cybercrime?

Some people may be wondering what a jargon a cybercrime is. Simply put, cybercrime is any criminal activity that involves the use of a computer or internet. Examples of cybercrime in Malawi are online money laundering, cyber stalking, cyber extortion, cyber bullying, cyberterrorism, online recruitment fraud, child pornography, among others.

The Reality of Cybercrime in Malawi

As we are living in the global village, it is worrisome to note that a Russian cybercriminal gang known as Clop, some days ago, published names and profiles of victims hit by a global mass hacking attack. The victims range from banks, universities, and United States government agencies. Millions of Americans’ personal data have been exposed in this global hack.

In Malawi, memories are still fresh when the government lost over US$31 million due to looting and theft of government coffers, a scandal dubbed Cashgate. In fact, the perpetrators exploited the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) to create and approve unauthorized payments, issue checks through the Accountant General’s Department, and transfer funds into supplier accounts without authorization. Many suspects were merely interrogated by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) but were later left scot-free due to a lack of political will and a dearth of cybercrime laws. Compounded by insufficient cybercrime specialists in the country, it was difficult to incriminate the suspects.

In 2022, Rest of World reported that Malawians have more mobile wallets than bank accounts, resulting in identity theft and other fraudulent activities being prevalent. In fact, the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) asserted that scammers steal $117,000 using mobile money transfers every month, largely due to high illiteracy levels, which are rampant in Malawi.

The Chakwera government is embroiled in a scandal after a scandal. Last year, the Malawi Government paid US$727,000 (K750 million) to a meat company for the procurement of fertilizer meant for the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP). Part of the money is yet to be recovered. As if this is not enough, this year, the same government, through the Ministry of Agriculture, offered a Romanian company called East Bridge Estate to supply 600,000 metric tonnes (MT) of fertilizer worth $124.5 million (about K129 billion). Ironically, East Bridge Estate largely specializes in importing medical equipment. It is no secret that dubious communications between Malawi government officials and scammers involve the use of computers and the internet.

Myths about Cybercrime in Malawi The myths and facts about the concept of Cybercrime in Malawi are presented in the subsequent subsections.

Malawi is poor and not advanced in technology, therefore it is safe. The fact is that, in the domain of computer security, cybercriminals take advantage of vulnerabilities such as primitiveness, recklessness, and ignorance of computer users. In fact, the network becomes as insecure as its weakest link.

I don’t bother about Cybercrime because I don’t use a computer. The truth is that anyone who uses an electronic device is vulnerable to cybercrime since any device connected to the internet can be used as a target of attack. Furthermore, as we are advancing towards Internet of Things (ToT) technology, most electronic devices will be connected.

ToT is the new technology composed of an array of physical objects equipped with sensors and software that enable them to interact with little human intervention by collecting and exchanging data via a network. For example, you could have a home connection of computers, mobile phones, TV sets, fridges, lighting systems, security cameras, and microwaves all controlled by an application on your smartphone.

I am not an IT expert, therefore I don’t bother protecting myself from Cybercrime. The truth is that cybercriminals do not attack IT experts only. It is, therefore, everyone’s responsibility to take precautionary measures against such attacks. There are many sources on the internet where cybercrime tips are offered.

Cybercriminals always attack from outside. In fact, most cyberattacks are perpetrated by employees within the organization. It is a fact that we live with potential criminals in our neighborhoods. It is not surprising that our own acquaintances, including lovers, may be notorious criminals. Who knows?

I am protected when I have a strong password and the latest antivirus software installed on my device. Much as it is true that these initiatives provide minimal security, your data or message can still be intercepted by an intruder while in transit.

Mitigating Cybercrime in Malawi

In this subsection, possible recommendations to combat cybercrime in Malawi are presented.

Malawi Cybercrime Act: It is imperative that the National Assembly must enact cybercrime laws, which will endeavor to criminalize cybercrime in Malawi. The act will further regulate jurisdiction in respect of cybercrimes. Law enforcement and investigation agencies will also be empowered to investigate cybercrime. Furthermore, individuals and organizations will be obligated to report incidences of cybercriminal activities.

Cyber hygiene: Just as personal hygiene is necessary to stay healthy, regularly following cyber hygiene practices helps organizations and individuals maintain the health and security of users, devices, networks, and data. It must be a shared responsibility for all departments and users to maintain cyber hygiene at all times.

Public-private partnership: The government cannot fight cybercapture on its own. Most of the present cyber expertise lies in the private sector. In addition, cyberattacks hit both private and public sectors without fear or discrimination.

International coordination and cooperation: Coordination and cooperation are needed when a cybercriminal in one country commits a crime in another country. In this case, international cooperation can be facilitated by bilateral, regional, and multilateral cybercrime treaties.

Education of users: It is essential that computer users be educated about the risks that cyberattacks pose. This includes developing training and awareness about how to prevent and detect such attacks. These initiatives could range from placing relevant information on financial institutions’ websites to generating media awareness through newspapers, magazines, radio, and TV.

Investing in specialized cybercrime skills: Currently, Mzuzu University is offering a master’s degree in Science program in information theory, coding, and cryptography. DMI-ST John the Baptist University has a degree program in Computer Security. More programs in cybercrime are needed in our public universities.

At the governance level, Malawi needs a national bureaucrat or “national cybersecurity director” to play an oversight role. The office may act as a single point of contact for all cyber-related matters in the country.

SIM card registration: Mandatory SIM card registration must be enforced at all times. With a registered SIM card, law enforcers are able to track down criminals who use phones for illegal activities.

Conclusion

The Malawi Cybercrimes Act is urgently required as it will help reduce and prevent cybercrime in Malawi. It will also assist law enforcement agencies in enforcing the law and, hopefully, protect the people of Malawi from criminals.



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