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Analyst Picks Holes in Proposed AU Cybersecurity Convention

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A proposed African Union (AU) convention seeking to step up the fight against cybercrime across Africa has critics up in arms over its potential to curb internet freedoms, according report by ITWeb Africa.

The African Union Convention on Cyber Security (AUCC), awaiting voting on in January 2014, proposes “establishing a credible framework for cyber security in Africa through organisation of electronic transactions, protection of personal data , promotion of cyber security, e-governance and combating cybercrime.”

The AU is, apparently, seeking to establish the convention because of what it says are African states’ “dire need of innovative criminal policy strategies that embody states, societal and technical responses to create a credible legal climate for cyber security.”

The move to introduce the convention comes as cyber crime levels in Africa are growing.

It could be recalled that the Norton Cybercrime Report for 2012, the likes of South Africa hosts the third-highest number of cyber crime victims in the world, behind only Russia and China.

In addition, the South African Cyber Threat Barometer 2012/13 put the total direct losses to cybercrime in South Africa between January 2011 and August 2012 at R2.65 billion.

But Kenyan based Strathmore University’s Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law (CIPIT) has hit out at the proposed AU cyber security convention and called for the convention not to go ahead in its current form.

The centre says the convention, if adopted as is, could abuse Africans’ right to privacy, harm freedom of expression, introduce legislative overkill and place too much power in the hands of judges.

A draft version of the convention allows judges, in the “public interest”, to call for the interception of individuals’ electronic communications without permission from these individuals.

“Our first concern is the omission to the right to privacy,” Rene Enoakpar of Strathmore University’s CIPIT told ITWeb Africa.

“The issue of public interest is complex because it has no unified meaning,” he said.

Enoakpar explained to ITWeb Africa that regulatory agencies in Africa could have varied interpretations of what is in the public interest.

He also said that these interpretations could reflect interests of political actors, especially governments, which in turn makes this provision problematic.

Furthermore, the ability to interfere with traffic data without permission could risk freedom of expression on the continent as well.

“With this provision, we think the right to freedom of expression will be seriously curtailed,” Enoakpar said.

Other aspects of the convention introduce what Enoakpar said is “legislative overkill.”

Enoakpar said the bill wants increased focus on crimes committed with online resources or computers. But he said this provision could make it possible for aggravation in situations where, for example, a criminal robs a bank after sending an email.

Other concerns regarding ‘legislative overkill’ include parts of the convention that want corporate bodies to be held responsible for offences that individuals commit using the corporations’ technology.

The convention also wants service providers to conduct vulnerability testing for their technologies: a requirement that could hold back e-commerce on the continent, Enoakpar said.

As a last concern, Enoakpar said the convention “grants absolute power to judges.”

Enoakpar added that judges on the continent are not adequately trained to deal with cybercrime and cyber security, making this absolute power even more problematic.

In a bid to stop the convention then from being adopted in its current form, the Strathmore’s CIPIT has started a campaign to oppose the ratification of it by the AU.

The centre has petitioned Kenya’s parliament through an open letter regarding the convention. The petition is sponsored and endorsed by the likes of search giant Google and technology innovation centres iLabAfrica and Nairobi’s iHub.

“We call attention to the fact that the context within which it is being passed will make the convention unfeasible,” Enoakpar told ITWeb Africa.

“We think that there is need for substantive revision,” Enoakpar said.

However, while the CIPIT and its supporters are looking to stop the AU cyber security convention from being adopted in its current form, the organisation does nevertheless want an Africa focused convention on cyber security.

African countries such as South Africa are looking to implement data privacy laws such as the Protection of Personal Information (POPI). But for those countries that do not have such endeavours as yet, there is a need for a guiding framework such as an AU cyber security convention, Enoakpar told ITWeb Africa.

But that framework cannot jeopardise civil liberties, contain legislative overkill or hand over too much power to judges, Enoakpar said.

“The nature of cybercrime is transnational, and that notwithstanding I know many African countries do not have an effective legislation on cybercrimes.”

“A good starting point would be for the African Union (AU) to come up with a model law on cybercrime,” said Enoakpar.


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Swedfund Invests in 2 Health Startups in Nigeria, Madagascar

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Swedish financial institution Swedfund announced an investment of SEK2.2 million in three healthcare facilities in Africa and Southern Asia.

Swedfund Invests in 2 Health Startups in Nigeria, Madagascar

The loan conditions have not been disclosed.

In Africa, the company is investing in Nigeria-based Express Pharma, which distributes safe medicines across the country’s strategic points.

The Malagasy Opham, which provides pharmaceutical products to hospitals and pharmacies in Madagascar, will also benefit from the support. In Asia, the Swedish company targets Indian health care provider Medica Synergie.

Swedfund’s investment will primarily be used to acquire drugs and other protective equipment.

The health sector is attracting more and more investments due to the covid-19 pandemic, which requires healthcare facilities to strengthen their equipment and put in place effective response measures.


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Check Point Exposes Notorious Hacktivist ‘VandaTheGod’

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Check Point has shared research detailing its investigation to expose the real identity of a notorious super-hacker who has been responsible for attacks on 4 820 Web sites, the theft of the private data of around one million people, and the sale of stolen credit cards.

In addition, for the last seven years, official Web sites belonging to governments worldwide were hacked and defaced by this hacker, who identified himself as ’VandaTheGod’. The hacks push an anti-establishment message and were carried out, he claimed, to combat social injustices that the hacker believed were a direct result of government corruption.

He targeted governments in numerous countries, including South Africa, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, Argentina, Thailand, Vietnam, and New Zealand.

He was certainly cunning, but not too clever, as a silly mistake on Facebook exposed him, and will likely seal his fate.

“The person behind the ‘VandaTheGod’ persona has used multiple aliases over the years, including ‘Vanda de Assis’ or ’SH1N1NG4M3’, and was highly active on social media, primarily Twitter,” says Check Point. “They would often share the results of those hacking endeavours with the public. A link to this Twitter account would sometimes even be added to the message VandaTheGod left on compromised Web sites, confirming that this profile was in fact managed by the attacker.”

Many of the tweets in this account were written in Portuguese, and the hacker claimed to be a part of the “Brazilian Cyber Army” or “BCA”, often displaying BCA’s logo in screenshots of compromised accounts and Web sites.

VandaTheGod didn’t only target government Web sites, but also launched attacks against public figures, universities, and even hospitals. In one case, he claimed to have access to the medical records of 1 million patients from New Zealand, which were offered for sale for $200.

While the majority of VandaTheGod’s attacks against governments were politically motivated, but closer scrutiny of his tweets shows he was also trying to achieve a personal goal: hacking a total of 5 000 Web sites, a goal that was nearly achieved, with 4 820 records of hacked Web sites linked to him.

The man behind the handle

VandaTheGod’s prominent role in several hacking groups, as well as his love of publicity, meant that he stayed in touch with others in the hacking community via numerous social media accounts, backup accounts in case of takedown, e-mail addresses, Web sites and more. Through the years, this activity left a long trail of information for Check Point to investigate.

For example, the WHOIS record for VandaTheGod.com revealed that the Web site was registered to an individual from Brazil, more specifically from Uberlandia, using the e-mail address fathernazi@gmail.com. In the past, VandaTheGod claimed to be a member of the UGNazi hacking group, and this e-mail address was used to register additional Web sites, such as braziliancyberarmy.com.

This wasn’t the only time the hacker got sloppy and shared details online that gave away valuable information about his identity. Another example, a screenshot that showed the compromised e-mail account of Brazilian actress and TV presenter Myrian Rios also shows an open Facebook tab with the name “Vanda De Assis”, and looking that name up led to a profile belonging to the attacker.

“While this profile did not share any details about the real identity of VandaTheGod, we were able to see many similarities between this and the Twitter accounts operated by the attacker, as the same content was often shared on both platforms,” says Check Point. “What was more interesting, however, was that this screenshot revealed the name of a user that we will identify here only by initials MR.”

At first Check Point was unsure if these were the hackers real initials, but upon further investigation, discovered a first name with these initials also appearing in several screenshots shared in VandaTheGod’s Twitter as the username of the machine used for this hacking activity.

Researchers tried to search Facebook for people named MR, but unsurprisingly, were presented with too many possibilities to fully explore. “Our breakthrough came when we searched for MR in conjunction with the city we previously observed in vandathegod.com’s WHOIS information: “UBERLANDIA”.

This still gave Check Point numerous Facebook profiles, but researchers were able to locate a single account, which contained an uploaded image endorsing the Brazilian Cyber Army. “At this point, we knew that we were on the right track. All that was left for us to do was to connect this individual’s account with one of the known VandaTheGod’s accounts. We were able to locate several cross-posts between the newly discovered profile and Vanda de Assis’s Facebook account,” the researchers say.

Finally, Check Point located shared photos of the same surroundings from different angles, specifically, the poster’s living room. This confirmed that both the MR and VandaTheGod accounts were being controlled by the same person.


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FG to Create 1m Jobs on Digital Platforms

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National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) is targeting the creation of about one million jobs through digital platforms between now and 2025, according to, Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi of the agency.

FG to Create 1m Jobs on Digital Platforms

Abdullahi who disclosed this during a virtual stakeholders engagement workshop in Abuja on the Draft National Outsourcing Strategy for Nigeria 2020-2025, said Nigerians and industry players should learn from how the world’s 25 richest billionaires have gained over $225 billion in just two months during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Almost all of them leverage on the power of digital platform to get the whopping amount. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is the biggest gainer.

“He made almost $32.5bn in two months under lockdown and he has moved from the 7th richest person in the world in early April to the fourth-richest person today,” Abdullahi said.

The NITDA boss, who quoted Forbes Magazine to buttress his point, explained that the Federal Government would leave no stone unturned on the diversification of the economy, especially adoption of digital platforms to increase the country revenue earnings.

Abdullahi, who put the global business process outsourcing market size as at 2019 at a value of  $221.5 billion, said it was expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.0% from 2020 to 2027.

COVID-19 is forcing organisations to cut bottom line cost. Therefore, many organizations will leverage on the benefits of outsourcing for some business processes and focus on core competencies, he explained.

He said: “With the recent government initiative to make Nigeria a leading digital economy coupled with the government promise to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty, NITDA under the supervision of Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy has refocused its effort to implementation of the National Digital Economy Strategy.

“This resonate with what is happening globally. Digital economy was emerging before covid-19 and now the crisis has made it more profound.”

He told participants at the workshop the strategy is predicated on fostering  “institutional, legal, regulatory, technological and infrastructural environment for sustainable development and rapid growth of IT enabled outsourcing industry in Nigeria.

“And we targeting creating over a million jobs in Nigeria by 2025”, Mr Abdullahi said, adding that seven critical pillars, such as infrastructures, skill and human capital development, branding and promotion, digital finances and incentives, innovation and entrepreneurship, trust, privacy and security and multi stakeholders governance are on target to achieve the desired end.

Abdullahi urged the stakeholders to make inputs into the draft to facilitate robust document that would make Nigeria a better place for all and a force to reckon with in the global business outsourcing market.

 


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