Africa is being increasingly targeted by hackers, and must invest in cyber security, industry leaders have said.
According to them, cyber threats have no more borders, and data pirates attack anything that moves. They stated this at the third Africa Cyber Security Conference in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
To them, in Africa, attacks have gone up by "20 or 30 per cent" over this period and there are possibilities of further rise.
Leader of IBM's elite security unit, the Tiger Team, Michel Bobillier, noted that the creativity of attackers have become very great, "they have organisations, real structured ecosystems, with a great deal of money and technology," to launch complex attacks.
Managing Director of Talentys, an Ivorian company operating in West Africa, Auguste Diop, said cybercriminals worldwide amassed a staggering 3,000 billion euros ($2,600 billion) in 2015, a sum he expected to double by 2021.
Specific figures are unavailable for the African continent, but its banks and telecoms firms are the main target for pirates.
They operate by bank fraud and exploiting the new tools for electronic payment, notably money transfers and the payment of bills on mobile phones, which are fast expanding.
Nigeria's Minister of Communication, Adebayo Shittu, had put the country yearly losses to cyber attacks at N127 billion.
Meanwhile, to take advantage of the growing market for cyber security, Orange CyberDefense -- a subsidiary of multinational telecoms operator Orange -- plans to open a hub in Morocco in 2019, with satellites in Tunisia, Ivory Coast and Senegal.
"The market for cyber security in Africa will expand from 1.7 billion dollars (1.5 billion euros) in 2017 to more than 2.5 billion in 2020," forecast, Managing Director of Orange CyberDefense, Michel Van den Berghe, in a telephone interview with AFP.
He added:"Cybercrime could destroy confidence in the development of digital technology," he warned, calling for measures to "reassure companies that wish to invest in Africa."
According to them, the mindsets are fast changing. Attackers now use ransomware - in which hackers use a malware virus to infiltrate a computer and encrypt data, then proposing to provide a coded key to "unlock" the data on payment of a ransom. This, they claimed have "doubled in a year."
Van den Berghe, who stressed this, added: "In Africa, attacks have gone up by "20 or 30 per cent" over that period."
According to Diop, "Everyone is threatened in Africa, notably by data theft from individuals, companies and governments.
"Africa is lagging behind, digital security is in its infancy," he said, though he noted that nations such as Kenya and South Africa are "more mature zones".
For Visa's Regional Bureau in Abidjan, covering 18 countries in West and Central Africa, "each attack costs an average of $1.2 million," mainly in lost income, said risk manager Lawal Aribidesi, who did not specify the number of attacks.
"The challenge is to change mindsets, to bring the culture of security to business," said Boukary Ouedraogo, managing director of Atos Afrique de l'Ouest, the regional subsidiary of one of the world's main digital services firms.
"As a latecomer to digital technology, Africa can turn its handicap into an advantage by avoiding the errors made in cyber security by Europe and America," Diop suggested.