The rate of cybercrimes escalated during the three months the country was in lockdown, with a 72 per cent increase in the amount of money involved, according to statistics of the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB).
Between January and March 22 when the country went into a total lockdown, Rwf25.9 million had been stolen by cybercriminals in 39 cases that RIB investigated.
For the next three months, the lost amount increased to Rwf44.6 million, representing a 72 per cent rise while the number of cases more than doubled to 89.
Speaking to the press on Tuesday, July 28, the bureau's Secretary-General, Col Jeannot Ruhunga, attributed the rise of computer-based crimes to the digital momentum gained as most people embraced the online lifestyle due to the coronavirus outbreak.
On the other hand, he said that physical theft dropped during the same period, thanks to the movement restriction measures imposed in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Among various crimes that can be committed digitally, mobile money frauds gained the most attention.
"Yes, the numbers of fraud cases increased when the lockdown started all through the month of May. More than 80 cases [were] reported and investigated," Teta Mpyisi, the communication manager at MTN Rwanda told this newspaper in an email.
She said that there was no specific group targeted by fraudsters.
Social engineering, she revealed, is the most common trick the criminals use.
This is the art of manipulating people so they give up confidential information, which includes passwords, bank information, or access to your computer or mobile phone.
"Mobile money subscribers [are] being defrauded due to social engineering schemes like sending fake SMSs and calling customers, conning them to put in their PIN number and their funds taken by fraudsters," said the official.
On Sunday, July 26th, RIB paraded six individuals suspected to defraud MTN mobile money agents in Kigali City. The alleged suspects stole the agents' passwords which they used to transfer money to their personal accounts.
Following of increase in cyber-crime, the telecom and RIB rolled out a joint campaign to raise public awareness on cyber safety and security, especially targeting mobile money wallets which more than half of Rwandans own.
Teta Mpyisi said that there has been "good progress" as many customers now learned the malicious tricks.
RIB advised the public not to let people look at their phone screen while carrying out a transaction in order to keep their credentials discreet.
While available information shows amounts of defrauded money, cybercriminals are oftentimes after data such as personal or patient data, and banking information.
Economic loss caused by the global spike of computer crimes has been growing lately. In 2018 alone, the loss amounted to Rwf6 billion sourced in at least 113 cases. Whereas in 2017, there were about 80 incidents involving about Rwf2.6 billion from an estimated Rwf1.3 billion in 2016.
Last year, Innocent Muhizi, the chief executive of Rwanda Information Society Authority (RISA), said that cybersecurity breaches or attacks are real, citing computer viruses that disrupt the operations of various institutions.
At the time, the official disclosed that between 20 and 50 per cent of attacks are detected every day as hackers attempt to enter different systems.
Over the last five years, the country has invested heavily in securing its cyberspace.
Bodies such as the national Computer Security Incident Response Team (Rw-CSIRT) and the National Digital Certification Center (NDCC) have been established.
Rw-CSIRT is tasked to prevent and respond to cybersecurity incidents in public and private cyberspace as well as raise awareness for the general public.