The battle of Online Safety – The role of technology
The world is rapidly evolving into a digitally interconnected space, with cybercrime emerging as a significant threat to millions of online users worldwide including individuals, businesses, and governments alike. The once expansive digital ecosystem, offering endless explorative possibilities, has transformed into an arena where individuals, businesses, and governments are grappling with the complexities of safeguarding the virtual space.
Specifically, in today’s world where we effortlessly surf the web, carry out transactions, share personal experiences, and engage with a worldwide community, the danger of cyber threats has never been more prominent. To this end, the adoption of technology to combat cyber threats has become not only crucial but imperative, as malicious actors continually exploit the vulnerabilities within digital systems and/or virtual spaces.
The aim of this article is to explore how technology can be harnessed to prevent, detect, and respond to cybercrime.
THE STATE OF ONLINE SAFETY
In today’s digital age, Ghana, like many other countries, is undergoing a significant transformation in its use of technology. The internet has become a vital part of daily life for communication, commerce, and education, opening up numerous opportunities but also introducing substantial challenges when it comes to online safety and security.
A noteworthy trend is the widespread adoption of mobile technology, with a large portion of the population accessing the internet through smartphones. However, this shift to mobile devices comes with increased risks related to mobile-centric cyber threats, making it essential to prioritize the security of these platforms and connected devices to safeguard personal and financial information.
Recent times have seen the nation grappling with a surge in cyber threats and online attacks. The statistics indicate a significant rise in various types of cyber incidents, ranging from individual-focused phishing attacks to complex cyber espionage campaigns affecting both businesses and government entities. The National Cybersecurity Advisor reported a total of 11,550 cybercrime cases since the launch of the Cybercrime Incident Reporting Points of Contact (PoC) in October 2019. This system was created to facilitate the reporting of cybercrime and cybersecurity incidents by the public, strengthening the efforts of the National Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) operating under the National Cybersecurity Centre (NCSC).
Cyberfraud, such as credit card fraud, identity fraud, or romance fraud, remains the most prevalent form of cybercrime in Ghana. Perpetrators typically create fake online profiles or websites to deceive victims into sharing their money or personal information. Significantly, the financial sector has become a particularly attractive target for hackers who exploit vulnerabilities in online banking systems. TheBank of Ghana’s Fraud Report for the year 2022 highlighted cyber email fraud as one of the top five fraud categories significantly impacting the banking industry. Notably, this form of fraud resulted in losses of GHC4.3 million in 2022 alone, representing a 65.5% increase from the previous year.
Recognizing the severity of cybercrime, the government has taken a proactive approach, working in collaboration with the Cybersecurity Authority and related institutions such as the Bank of Ghana and the Securities and Exchange Commissionto address concerns related to online safety. Several initiatives have been launched to raise awareness among citizens about the importance of cybersecurity. Prominent efforts include the National Cyber Security Awareness Month and the Child Online Protection Portal, designed to educate the public on how to protect themselves online. Additionally, regulating agencies have implemented regulations and rolled out initiatives requiring businesses, particularly in critical sectors like finance and healthcare, to adopt stringent cybersecurity measures.
THE IMPACT OF CYBERCRIME
The repercussions of these cyber threats transcend the digital world and have tangible impacts on individuals, businesses, and the nation’s economy. Discussed below are some of these impacts:
Moreover, there is a growing awareness of the internet’s threats to children and young people, who are exposed to various risks such as sexual and violent content, cyberbullying, harassment, hate speech, online grooming for illicit activities, and more. These online experiences can harm children’s self-esteem, psychological well-being, and personal development, leaving them vulnerable to physical harm, exploitation, and abuse.
Ransomware attacks and other cybercrimes disrupt business operations, leading to lost revenue, decreased productivity, and even the closure of smaller enterprises – some are unable to bounce back from the disruption. Additionally, businesses may face legal ramifications and regulatory fines for failing to adequately protect customer data, further escalating the financial impact.
Cybercrime carries the potential to disrupt the country’s economy by impacting critical infrastructure, causing financial losses, and deterring foreign investment. Government agencies must allocate substantial resources to address cyber defense and recovery, diverting funds from other essential public services. Intellectual property theft is also a concern, undermining the nation’s competitive advantage and innovation. Government agencies play a pivotal role in responding to and preventing cybercrimes, necessitating considerable resources for law enforcement and national defense, which can have ripple effects on other crucial public services.
THE ROLE OF TECHNOLOGY IN COMBATING CYBERCRIME
As our reliance on digital infrastructure continues to grow, the ongoing development and integration of advanced technologies remain crucial for fortifying our defences and preserving the integrity of the digital realm. While technology can play a role in enhancing online safety, it is not a silver bullet that can solve all the problems. Technology solutions need to be carefully designed, evaluated, and regulated to ensure that they are effective, reliable, transparent, accountable, and respectful of users’ rights. Through a combination of innovation, collaboration, and vigilance, we can navigate the digital landscape with confidence, knowing that technology is working tirelessly to keep our interconnected world secure.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
CECILIA ANTWI KYEM is an Associate at SUSTINERI ATTORNEYS PRUC. Cecilia specializes in Technology andEmerging Innovations, Startups/SMEs, Intellectual Property, Corporate, and Transactions as well as Dispute Resolution. She welcomes views on this article via email@example.com.