Thousands of Rwandans are facing the risk of online fraud as more people use the Internet for work, business and leisure.
As of March 2020, statistics by Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority show that at least 7,960,018 people have access to the Internet with a penetration rate of 62.9 percent.
While the Covid-19 pandemic forced many people to spend more time online, experts say many are exposed to cyber threats including email phishing and Internet fraud.
In particular, those who visit unsafe websites have ended up infecting not only their computers but entire computer systems of companies and networks, which has proved costly in the form of data and equipment loss.
“Many users seem not to know the dangers on the Internet and end up visiting dangerous sites or downloading defective files which have ended up infecting computer systems. This has become common,” said Misigaro Charles, a technology engineer at Broadband Systems Corporation.
He said people keep following links and opening them without putting into consideration the security threats.
“Many companies don’t even have basic network security like firewalls which makes systems and networks more susceptible to cyber threats”
Threats like phishing which is when cyber scammers send emails pretending to be representatives of certain companies or organisations in order to get access to people’s private details like bank accounts, credit card numbers or passwords which they use to steal funds, are some of the threats in Rwanda.
According to theglobaleconomy.com, which weighs and aggregates countries security threats, indicates that between 2007 and 2021, the average for Rwanda’s cyber security threat stands at 5.58 on the scale of 0-10, and the highest has been 6.2 in 2015
Technology experts from Carnegie Mellon University have said compromised networks, lack of adequate information as well as installation of pirated software are responsible for most of the cyber attacks in the country, and advise that conducting vulnerability assessments to flag weaknesses in systems can go a long way to help avert some of the threats.
As part of efforts to build capacity to combat cyber security, the Rwanda Internet Community and Technology Alliance (RICTA) in collaboration with GIZ has trained more than 500 engineers in ICT and Internet network operations working in commercial banks, government entities as well as data companies.
“We do surveys to know the gaps and then train tech engineers to help plug these gaps. This will continue to be our area of support,” said Grace Ingabire, chief executive of Ricta.
Rwanda set up the National Cyber Security Authority as an entity to lead and coordinate efforts aimed at combating cyber security threats in the country.
Experts have observed that Internet users have increasingly become complicit in cyber security attacks because they are volunteering personal information on the different social media spaces.
“There is almost nothing like data privacy anymore, and this has increased chances of cyber security attacks,” said Brian Masiga, the network engineer at Research and Education Network for Uganda.
He said although there are cyber security policies, inadequate budgets has impeded upgrade of cyber security features and systems, which has exposed nationals to these cyber security threats.
The increased uptake and usage of online services including, remote working, virtual meetings and digital payments has exposed many users to cyber threats, and now NCSA has warned people to be more vigilant while transacting, working or meeting online.