According to an article published in March on ForeignPolicy.com, networked computers in Africa are so riddled with viruses and other forms of malware (malicious software) that if only ten percent of networked computers in Africa were hijacked by botnet operators and hackers, they possibly “could paralyze the network infrastructure of a major western nation.” Franz-Stefan Gady, the author of the article, asserts that this is due to the relatively high cost of antivirus software, the lack of a comprehensive legal framework to prosecute cybercrime, and poor pan-African coordination on how to address the issue of cybersecurity.
I can attest to the veracity of Mr. Gady’s claims. Almost every time I have used a USB memory stick on a computer in Nigeria and then attempted to use the same memory stick on my computer, my antivirus software detects a malicious piece of software hidden among the files. When family and friends visit from Nigeria, I usually run into the same issue when we exchange files.
Considering the fact that African nations are working to increase the quality of their internet access, it is vital that these problems are addressed. The first issue can be addressed quite easily. While new viruses, spyware and malware threats emerge frequently, there are a number of free antivirus applications that can be used in cybercafés. I think the best solution would be for African technology entrepreneurs to create reasonably-priced comprehensive internet security software, thereby providing a solution from within the continent.
The two remaining issues need to be addressed at the level of policy and governance, and we can help to get the ball rolling by encouraging our elected officials to make cybersecurity one of their development priorities. If these issues are not addressed the infected networked computers in Africa will remain a major threat to the international economy as well as African development.
Do you know any African trailblazers and entrepreneurs that are already addressing these issues? Let us know about them by leaving a comment below.
Photo Credit: Victor de la Fuente on Flickr
Reference: Gady, Franz-Stefan. March 2010. Africa’s Cyber WMD. Foreign Policy.
Ukeme Esiet is currently a graduate student at the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs. You can get more updates from him on his blog, 140+