News Column

Cyber crooks beware: Girls with guns will get you

June 7, 2014

DANIEL SABIITI Rwanda Today -1

The Ministry of Defence has earmarked female soldiers to take a lead role in fighting cybercrime as the government contemplates enforcing the cyber security department, dubbed "Cyber Battalion," among its priorities in the 2014/2015 budget.

While presenting and elaborating on the medium-term expenditure framework (MTEF), Defence Minister Gen James Kabarebe said there was a need for the military to develop the IT department and that focus will be on putting its efforts in curbing cybercrime.

Gen Kabarebe said Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) needed to take up the task of maintaining cyber security and also be involved in other security-threatening aspects that concern the citizenry rather than doing the usual patrols.

"We are in the IT age and the objective is to prevent any dangers that come with its own vulnerabilities," said Gen Kabarebe. "As we enter this era, which Rwanda is already in, we have to be protective….

"And this is about the country; any of our institutions can be attacked – the central bank, Ministry of Finance, even parliament can be attacked."

The MoD has started putting measures in place and training of staff in the project, which will take over Rwf1 billion and out of the estimated Rwf64.7 billion needed for next year's planned activities.

READ: Government plans to spend Rwf5.7bn on cyber security

Cybercrime remains a threat and a big challenge to East African Community, according to George Kiseka, a representative of International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) regional office in Nairobi.

A survey conducted by Deloitte last year shows banks in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia lose $245 million annually in cyber fraud.

READ: Fraudsters steal Ksh1.5bn from banks in one year

Globally, cybercrime has risen, accounting for 38 per cent of economic crime incidents compared with 16 per cent for other industries, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Global Economic Crime survey.

At least 400 female soldiers have been trained and tagged for running this section, with Gen Kabarebe saying that women have a greater advantage over men in this area of crime prevention.

He said besides the training conducted and infrastructure put in place, at least Rwf1.1 billion will be needed to have the project operational.

He added that, unlike in the past when girls and boys were not treated equally during recruitment into the military, times have changed and hiring will be in line with quality not quantity.

He argued that hiring female recruits just to fill the numbers and then have them spend hours in patrols in harsh weather would be gender insensitive and contrary to the country's policies.

The "Cyber Battalion" will focus on women because they have a comparative advantage in traits of secrecy, and concentration, in that they can spend 24 hours on a task and pay attention to detail, aspects that are highly necessary in the cyber security department, he said.

Rwanda is one of the countries in the EAC that have taken a lead in using and putting up Information Technology facilities and, with the risk of cybercrime, though not high, there has been a demand to check on measures to avoid the crime from taking root.

According to Youth and ICT Minister Jean Philbert Nsengimana, Rwanda's approach is more on prevention than fighting the crime.

"We are carrying out awareness campaigns on emerging cyber threats and building capacity to respond to such attacks in case they occur," he said, noting that effective prevention is the only solution to minimise cyber costs brought about by hacking, which continues to escalate in size and intensity.

The 2013/2014 budgetary allocation to the ICT sector saw billions of francs set aside to establish a line of defence against immediate threats resulting from a digitised economy.

Consequences of cyber attacks include leaking of national security confidential information, destruction of research material that have no backup and sale of trade secrets to competitors.

In February, 31 Interpol officers from 22 countries completed a four-day course in cybercrime investigation in areas of computer forensics on visa cases, networking internet fundamentals, e-mails forensics and digital crime profiling. They were also taught social media investigation, as well as how to preserve and report online data.

Police say cybercrime rates in Rwanda are not as alarming as in the rest of the world due to the average Internet penetration but it is imperative that the fight against cybercrime starts now because of its impact, which is on the rise.

With an Internet penetration rate rising from 0.01 per cent in 2003 to 7.04 per cent by June 2012, it is believed that most Rwandans use ICT but do not know how to guard against cyber risks such as hackers and online fraudsters and conmen.

Article 312 of the Rwandan Penal Code says any person who, fraudulently or in any way, accesses and remains in another person's automated data processing system or similar systems with intent to finding out electronically stored or transmitted data, regardless of the location, is liable to a term of imprisonment of between one to three years and a fine of Rwf1 million to Rwf3 million.

For more stories covering the world of technology, please see HispanicBusiness' Tech Channel

Source: East African, The

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