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Africa's Coming Cyber-Crime Epidemic 142

Posted by Soulskill
from the hello-sir-madam dept.
jfruh writes "Those Nigerian spam scams of the last decade may have just been the first step in a looming African cyber-crime wave. Africa has the world's fastest-growing middle class, whose members are increasingly tech-savvy and Internet connected — and the combination of ambitious, educated people, a ceiling on advancement due to corruption and lack of infrastructure, and lax law enforcement is a perfect petri dish for increased cybercrime."
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Africa's Coming Cyber-Crime Epidemic

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  • by dgharmon (2564621) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @04:05PM (#42453447) Homepage
    "There's a great chapter from a 1981 children's book called "World of Tomorrow: School, Work and Play" that imagines how computers, in the future, would give rise to a whole new phenomenon: 'Computer Crimes" .. Computer criminals will "work from home, using his own computer to gain access to the memories of the computers used by the banks and companies"

    I guess it'll be safer to use the BBC Microcomputer [wikipedia.org] in the 'future' ...
  • So why the hell do we not cut them off from the Internet? Politicians want to restrict our Internet, but who give a ratz a$$ about where the real problems are at.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CanHasDIY (1672858)

      So why the hell do we not cut them off from the Internet?

      Here's why, by analogy:

      Statement: The vast majority of violent crime occurs in urban areas.
      Response by your logic: Why don't we carpetbomb all urban areas to prevent violent crime?

      See what you did there?

      Generalization is the hallmark of the non-thinker.

      • by na1led (1030470)
        That's not my thinking at all. What I'm saying, these countries don't abide by the laws that the rest of the world abide by, so why do we treat them as equal. What countries like Africa are doing is cyber war against us, so why do we sit on our fat asses and do nothing?
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by CanHasDIY (1672858)

          That's not my thinking at all.

          Then you should be more clear to avoid confusion - intent is often difficult to infer from written text, and it is the duty of the writer to ensure his message is clearly stated.

          What I'm saying, these countries don't abide by the laws that the rest of the world abide by, so why do we treat them as equal.

          What are these international laws that "the rest of the world," which includes Russia, China, and the U.S., supposedly abide by? None I've ever heard of.

          What countries like Africa are doing

          Ah, a student of the Sarah Palin School of International Knowledge.

          Explains a lot, actually.

          • by na1led (1030470)
            Shouldn’t Dick Heads like you be hanging out on at the Huffington Post?
            • Shouldn’t Dick Heads like you be hanging out on at the Huffington Post?

              Awww, an ad hominem attack, how quaint! Lemme guess, next you'll make some brainless accusation about me being a commie or socialist or some other term you bandy about but don't actually know the definition of, right?

              Seriously, though - you're the one making broad, baseless generalizations, showing a complete lack of knowledge of international law, and who, apparently, doesn't know what the difference between a country and a continent is. If anyone is a dickhead in this particular situation, I got news

            • by tehcyder (746570)
              Oooh, did the dig about "countries like Africa" upset you, poor wittle man?
        • "countries like Africa" Africa is not a country. It is a continent with a 57 countries. For more, please read: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Africa [wikipedia.org] Over and above this continental oversight, I wish to just indicate that I categorically disagree with your thinking. Or lack thereof as the case may be.
        • by fiaskow (1685940)
          Maybe in your world Africa is a country. Anyways, this is pure FUD. Look at this map [globalsecuritymap.com] of countries perpetrating cybercrime. Then worry about Eastern Europe/Russia and China. Probably even less chance of perpetrators in those countries being caught and facing the legal systems.
        • by tehcyder (746570)
          It's a lot easier to pick on Africa than China, isn't it?
    • Why isn't there a scammers black list? We have ad lists for ad blockers and spam list for spammers. Why not a black list for ipaddress of known scammers?

      • Why isn't there a scammers black list? We have ad lists for ad blockers and spam list for spammers. Why not a black list for ipaddress of known scammers?

        Many anti-spam products keep a dynamic list of these, as well as grey-lists of IP blocks in common scam areas. SURBL keeps a list too.

        The problem here is that known scammers are not located at IP addresses -- the Nigerian system is set up with mob bosses and a chain of command -- with the actual "scammers" usually being people sending scams via internet cafes or via cell phones who are being threatened by the mob or whose family members are being threatened by the mob (little "m"). Blocking an IP address

  • by mlts (1038732) * on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @04:11PM (#42453509)

    Africa is a huge continent. The US gets flooded with pictures of kids starving on a constant basis, but in reality, there are a lot of countries with a middle class, with middle class problems.

    What I wonder about is the concept of small, but agile ISPs, small enough to provide security on their end (firewalls, outgoing port 25 blocking unless it goes through a relay, even perhaps more active IDS/IPS items like blocking C&C hosts.) ISPs small enough that they can handle threats rapidly, but large enough to be fairly profitable.

    Defense in depth is critical, but there are places where one gets more bang for their naira on the network topology, mainly the edge routers, as well as different user segments.

    Just offering an "antivirus kit" won't help much, because of the difficulty of AV programs in catching zero-days. Ideally an IDS/IPS, with some way to allow subscribers to bypass it if they have some special requirement (like a personal mail server, or running some other incoming process) would help catch the larger attacks, and help protect against DoS/DDoS attacks which won't take down the ISP, but can take down a subscriber on DSL or cable.

    Nothing is perfect, but this is better than nothing.

  • by retroworks (652802) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @04:17PM (#42453569) Homepage Journal

    The highest growth rates in internet access, during the past 10 years, have been in nations earning about $3000 per year, or 1/10 the average GDP of "rich" nations. As more and more people get internet, we can expect the use of "cybercrime" to expand, just as we can expect car accidents to increase in nations where cars become affordable. Meanwhile, loans to Africans through organizations like Kiva.org are repaid at a higher rate than bank loans in America. I do a lot of business in the developing (or more aptly named, Emerging) world and find the "petri dish for increased cybercrime" alarmist. The rapid, rapid education and rise of geeks of color is a "petri dish" for film, art, photography, software development (see MEST in Ghana), blood banks, laughter, tears, hugs, etc. Yes, cyber crime will increase, like everything else will increase. The article is stupid.

    By the way, in case you missed it, the stories about "80-90% of e-waste exports" being burned by primitive African children has also been disproven by 3 separate studies. Africa has had television since I lived there in the 1980s, and the junk filmed burned at African landfills was in use for years, it's the same generation of waste as goes to our own landfills. Three studies showed that 80-90% of used computers imported are successfully reused and repaired. Articles like this one lead to profiling and arrests of good people as "e-waste criminals". The "other-ization" of geeks of color is really shameful.

    • Mathematics (Chair?) at Temple University, does a little writing.
      Try 'A Mathematician Reads The Newspaper'.
      I think the first of his books was 'Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences', great gift book.

    • The e-waste thing isn't "other-ization" (whatever the F that is) but rather shaming of Westerners for dumping their garbage on Africa. Can we not disturb the narrative? It's useful.
      • Except the Westerners didn't dump their garbage there. That was the myth I'm talking about. The math was wrong, just like this math is wrong. Why was it believed? Looks like even smart people like you believed it. Profiling.
        • Even if it's not true, it's still a useful myth to shame Westerners into doing the right thing instead of dumping their problems on people of color.
        • Eh westerners did, smuggling e-waste out of the EU is big business. Look up some of the customs reports.

    • by daem0n1x (748565)

      "Geeks of colour"? What colour are they? Blue? Green?

      Is it so hard to use the word "black"? I've worked in Africa. Guess what word Africans use to refer to themselves. I give you a clue, it's not "colour".

      Racism will only be over when little shit like this doesn't matter any more.

      Funny thing: they call me "white" or "pula" in Africa. In my own country or other countries in Southern Europe I'm simply yet another white guy. In the US or Northern Europe, I'm not considered white. Pretty stupid, isn't it

    • by nukenerd (172703)

      The rapid, rapid education and rise of geeks of color is a "petri dish" for film, art, photography, software development (see MEST in Ghana), blood banks, laughter, tears, hugs, etc. Yes, cyber crime will increase, like everything else will increase.

      Fascinating, but this discussion is about cyber crime, not about the other stuff you mention.

  • I don't mean to offend the author of the article, but..., maybe he might have provided more insight than "more people will have computer access in the future, cyber crimes will increase".
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Where do these "facts" come from. It was my understanding that it was India that "has the world's fastest-growing middle class, whose members are increasingly tech-savvy and Internet connected — and the combination of ambitious, educated people, a ceiling on advancement due to corruption and lack of infrastructure, and lax law enforcement"...

    Anyone losing anything to Nigerian or other African scammers is a nit wit. Africa offers no greater threat than they ever have, which is to say nearly nil.

  • members are increasingly tech-savvy and Internet connected — and the combination of ambitious, educated people, a ceiling on advancement due to corruption and lack of infrastructure, and lax law enforcement

    They talking about us or them? Doesn't seem fair to pick on the africans when its not really any different in the USA or any number of other places.

  • You said "ambitious, educated people, a ceiling on advancement due to corruption and lack of infrastructure, and lax law enforcement".
    Are you sure this isn't the US?
    Wait, my bad, right up front you mentioned "ambitious, educated people", not the US.

  • African cyber-crime wave.

    Thats racist(tm)(c) and completely non-politically correct. Not quite as bad as using the N word but still inappropriate. Should have been written:

    African-American cyber-crime wave.

    There now thats the politically correct term.

    • by Jeng (926980)

      That would only be politically correct if said Africans were in America.

      • by vlm (69642)

        Yeah, thats kind of the point. Been there seen this on dailyWTF or sociological images or whatever, clowns forcing black people living in europe/africa to identify themselves as "afro-americans" despite having nothing to do with the USA. A great LOL. Almost as funny as my pale pasty white high school friend who immigrated from south africa demanding to be called an afro-american and get in on all the racial quota deals and scholarships and stuff at colleges. Always wondered what happened to that guy.

        • by Jeng (926980)

          That sounds completely ridiculous, but probable.

          Got any links to examples I can laugh at?

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          Yeah, thats kind of the point. Been there seen this on dailyWTF or sociological images or whatever, clowns forcing black people living in europe/africa to identify themselves as "afro-americans" despite having nothing to do with the USA.

          I. Don't. Believe. You.

      • whoosh...

        • by Jeng (926980)

          Your "whoosh" indicates that I am missing vitally important information that every other person on this earth knows except for me.

          Mind enlightening me?

          • by tehcyder (746570)

            Your "whoosh" indicates that I am missing vitally important information that every other person on this earth knows except for me.

            Mind enlightening me?

            It's because the assclown you were replying to with his ridiculous attempt at a "ha ha look how funny political correctness is" comment obviously wouldn't have any examples, because it's made up bullshit. No doubt there are some examples somewhere where people have made mistakes and called Africans "Afro-Americans" or something, but as a rule it just doesn't make sense.

  • > Africa has the world's fastest-growing middle class

    Translation for people who didn't major in math: Africa has almost no middle class.

    When something is really really small, even the tiniest amount of growth appears quite large when expressed as a percentage. It's like when I say that the game my friends and I invented is the fastest-growing game in the world, because two nights ago there were only two of us playing it, but last night we had a party and played it with eight of our friends, so it exper
    • by tehcyder (746570)

      In fact, I believe there are more than eight people in the middle class in Nigeria alone.

      Which brand of Christmas cracker did you pull that gem from? I'll make a note to boycott it.

  • by schlachter (862210) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @04:24PM (#42453657)

    Why is Africa always having epidemics?

    • Why is Africa always having epidemics?

      Same reason everyone else is... it makes for good press coverage.

      A Pandemic, on the other hand, is much more rare, as it's not news; everyone has already experienced it.

  • ....kinda backfired on us didn't it.

  • Considering what the West has done to Africa, it's hard to condemn these people for a little retaliation. Nothing they could steal from us will ever come close to matching the damage done by Colonialism.

    • If we weren't at least a handful of generations beyond that point I'd agree. There comes a time when the past is the past and people need to look toward the future.
      • by dkleinsc (563838)

        I disagree:
        - These kinds of wounds don't heal quickly: We're still dealing with the after-effects of American slavery 150 years after it was outlawed, American Indian nations have never recovered from being conquered by Europeans, Ireland is still dealing with the after-effects of English rule, etc.

        - One of the effects of colonial rule is that the borders of African nations sometimes bear no relationship whatsoever to who's living there. That's exactly the kind of setup that leads to internal revolts and te

        • by rseuhs (322520)
          These kinds of wounds don't heal quickly

          Hmmm, then why was the brutally colonized Korea (the Southern part, anyway) able to do it? Why were Germany and Japan, which were almost literally bombed back to the stone age able to do it?

          But even more importantly:

          Why do black nations which were free forever or for a long time (Libera, Haiti, Ethiopia (no, the 6 years of Italian occupation don't count) or were barely touched by colonialism (most landlocked areas barely had any real contact with Europeans, Chad

    • Considering what the West has done to Africa, it's hard to condemn these people for a little retaliation. Nothing they could steal from us will ever come close to matching the damage done by Colonialism.

      Oh Bullshit! Colonialism ended 60 years ago. There where plenty of other colonial countries too. America, India, parts of south east Asia, and South America. Why is it only Africa that is constantly having problem?

      We all know the answer to it, just nobody wants to say it. Colonialism probably was one of the best things that happened to these countries. It bought highways, medicine, railroads and modern science to primitive and backwards peoples. Yes, they where primitive and backwards.

      When col

      • Colonialism in the Americas: Europeans were brought in and decimated the way of life of the original inhabitants. Europeans stayed and prospered.

        Colonialism in Australia/NZ: Europeans were brought in and decimated the way of life of the original inhabitants. Europeans stayed and prospered.

        Colonialism in Asia: Europeans were brought in and failed to decimate the way of life of the original inhabitants. Europeans left and infrastructure helped natives recover (slowly).

        Colonialism in Africa: Europeans were

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        Oh Bullshit! Colonialism ended 60 years ago.

        You've either never studied history, or are 13 or something.

        60 years (in actual fact more like 50) is really not that long in the real world.

        • 60 years (in actual fact more like 50) is really not that long in the real world.

          Yeah, its not is it. So in 50 years India went from a colony to sending probes to the moon, a nuclear power, and being the largest call center in the world. Where Africa went right back to mud huts and clubbing each other over the head. Less in some areas if you count the downward spiral of South Africa.

          So what has India got that the whole continent of Africa is lacking?

    • by rseuhs (322520)
      Considering what the West has done to Africa ...

      Hmm, built roads, railroads, brought medicine, electricity, spend huge sums of the White taxpayer's money for aid...

      ... it's hard to condemn these people for a little retaliation

      Does that mean I get some aid-money from Africa? Will they bring me some advanced technology?

  • As alluded to by the father of cyberpunk himself:

    "The Wig reasoned that all that obsolete silicon had to be going somewhere. Where it was going, he learned, was into any number of very poor places struggling along with nascent industrial bases. Nations so benighted that the concept of nation was still taken seriously. The Wig punched himself through a couple of African back-waters and felt like a shark cruising a swimming pool thick with caviar. Not that any one of those tasty tiny eggs amounted to much, bu

    • Except in reality, it seems to have worked out in reverse: those "tiny tasty eggs" with their "obsolete silicon" turned out to be a lot smarter than the "shark in caviar" thought.

      • by tchernik (2494258)
        Agree.

        It's easy to think that because these modern things were hard to get for people in the west, therefore they will also be for the rest as well. As if the poor people in Africa would buy old BBNs and DEC PDP-11s and make their own ARPANET, instead of buying state of the art equipment, which is cheaper and better by the day.

        For some things (like medical infrastructure or education), the way ahead may still be hard for many of those countries. But for information technology, that doesn't really apply
    • by volmtech (769154)
      Yours is the only post that even hints at what is the true problem in Africa is, the banks. Money doesn't move unless the banks send it, it really isn't "stolen", the banks just wont tell you who they gave it to. The system was set up to erase it's own tracks so the banks could launder money and fatten insiders. African thieves have learned how to access the system (with unofficial government help) but the banks can't stop them because that would end their racket. This applies to American banks also, why d
  • by k6mfw (1182893) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @05:24PM (#42454317)
    A discussion somewhere on http://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians [reddit.com] someone said ever since Europeans drew border lines in Africa and the Middle East, there's been nothing but problems since. An oversimplified answer but generated lively discussion. Of course what I'd like to know is percentage of e-criminals of population compared to other countries. And........ a serious crime is Wall Street types bilking many of their life savings.
    • by ruir (2709173)
      I dont know why we dont also discuss how romans ruined Europe, or English the UK, or Genghis Khan ruined China...
    • by rseuhs (322520)
      By that logic, black countries with natural borders (like Madagascar, Jamaica, etc.) should be doing great.
  • I call bullshit on this article. What this is: Cheer-leading and whitewashing for a U.S. government press release that promises more entanglement and "anti-terror" activity (by way of the UN) in foreign countries. Here is the meat of the article, all the way at the very end of the article, if you have the patience to get there:

    At least on the African continent, change is coming. In addition to aid from the U.S. and others, groups like the Cyber Security Africa and the International Institute for Counter Terrorism (ICT) are setting up regional workshops and conventions to address problems like cyber crime in Africa.

    Western nations are helping out, also. In December, the U.S. Department of State has granted $250,000 to combat transnational cybercrime in East African nations. That money will be used to train law enforcement, judges and prosecutors on cyber crime prosecution, with cooperation from the US Justice Department. Still, a State Department spokesperson said the money will be spent on "fundamentals" - laying the groundwork for intra-government and international cooperation on cyber crime, as well as 'basic laws that criminalize cybercrime conduct, laws on handling electronic evidence."

    It approvingly portrays a Kenyan push to require static IPs on all mobile devices to better permit tracking:

    The Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK) is pushing for mobile operators to assign static IP addresses to smart phones and tablets to "help track and monitor user activity," according to statements from Bitange Ndemo, the Information and Communication Permanent Secretary there.

    It includes delightful broken-window fallacies, basically in support of US-

  • Waste their time. They can send a million emails at the touch of a button. Set up a bait email account and email them back. Digging through a million replies would bury them Even better is to find ones using Magic jack to pretend to be at the airport with your consignment box. Call them to ask how to use western union, How long can you wait at the airport? etc. Bury them in chaff. I use my bait gmail account with Google Voice to call them. No need to have them call my cell or home phone at all hours

  • After destroying their economy and driving their countries into civil war in order to squeeze some more precious resources out from their soil, it's about time they retaliate. I for one welcome our new Nigerian Prince Overlords
  • At this stage, it's nothing but precog and profiling. OK

Luck, that's when preparation and opportunity meet. -- P.E. Trudeau

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