Cyber Attacks in West Africa Spark IT Debates
Several cyber attacks aimed at government related websites in Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal over the last two months have sparked a debate on how to increase online security while mitigating politically motivated hacking attacks. A popular Senegalese news site, Seneweb, as well as the website of the government’s ICT management agency, were the first to become hacked in the latest attacks in December and January. The attacks supposedly launched in response to Senegalese President Macky Sall’s participation in a rally that supported the French magazine, Charlie Hebdo.
Ato Sarpong, Ghana’s deputy minister of communications, confirmed on January 21st that the government portal ghana.gov was successfully attacked by a hacker known as Alsancak Tim, who is from Turkey. The hacker was able to break through 11 of the websites hosted on the portal. The CERT stated that the website was vulnerable due to failure to update software.
Nigeria experienced similar cyber attacks after they confirmed that the Defense Headquarters website had been compromised on January 23rd in an ISIS style attempt to hack into government platforms. The hacker claiming responsibility named himself as Imam Sadiq, as well as tweeted messages supporting Muslim radical groups Boko Haram and ISIS. The same hacker, under a different name, was also allegedly responsible for hacks on police websites in New Jersey and Indiana.
“The messages from the hackers are important to help determine the magnitude of their operations. But what should be of priority is the actual act being done. The hacking of websites should not be seen as a normal practice as every organization is supposed to protect their data from wrongful use.”
said Emmanuel Greywoode, a lead Microsoft trainer in Ghana, over LinkedIn.
Industry insiders are hoping that the attacks will cause African governments to appreciate the worth of IT security experts.
“While the focus on preventing future hack attacks in the short term is nothing but stop gap measures and temporary fixes, governments across Africa should move urgently towards adopting national IT and cyber security strategies that focus more on training a new generation of law enforcement experts who will form the framework of national cyber defense strategies to prevent such attacks in the future,”
wrote Leslie Koroma, CEO of app developer Songhai Technologies.
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