Liberia: Cyber Crimes Has Increased Considerably in Liberia's Cyberspace - a Call to Adopt Policy and Strategy

There is an urgent need for the government of Liberia through the above mentioned government Ministries, Agency and Commission (MAC) to speedily adopt the drafted POLICY and STRATEGY on CYBERCRIMES in Liberia. A document that is expected to be used for providing an effective and unified legal, regulatory and institutional framework for the prohibition, prevention, detection, prosecution and punishment of cybercrimes in Liberia; also, it would be used to ensure the protection of critical national information infrastructure, and promote cybersecurity and the protection of computer systems and networks, electronic communications; data and computer programs, intellectual property and privacy rights and above all, protect our vulnerable cyberspace.

The harmful phenomenon, which is none than cyber-attacks, cyberbullies, cyber threats, cyber wars, etc., poses enough problems for the security of states, organizations, and individuals and, above all, the digital economy.

Today, internet is widely used by all of the people in Liberia and partly rural Liberia. The Internet makes the work of people easier and faster. We can do many things using the internet. The internet is truly an information superhighway because we can find much information about things through the use of the internet even the information of other people.

In the early 2000s, the focus of ICTs in Liberia was on expanding Internet access. With the advent of submarine fiber optics Internet transit in 2011, Liberia now has access to high-speed broadband at reasonable prices. The focus on access today is the rollout of terrestrial fiber optics backbone in Liberia.

The availability of Internet access means more people today have access to the Internet. The expansion of the Internet access has brought with it risks of attack from a person with disruptive tendencies to dupe other Internet users and commit cybercrimes. These disruptive activities by cyber-criminal has caused the debate on cybersecurity to be on the top of the agenda for almost every African country and many countries are planning policies and strategies to combat the cybercriminals. Several Global activities are taking place around the fight against cybercriminals and cybersecurity. The ITU's IMPACT program is providing several members countries early warning systems on cybercrimes and is helping these member countries secure their cyberspace.

According to study, cybercrime is a criminal activity that is carried out by means of using the computer, smartphone, tablet, and the internet. Cybercrime can be a serious crime when people use the internet to get the personal information of a person and use it to steal something from them. In this case, cybercrimes occur daily in Liberia, but people walk without penalty due to lack of CYBERCRIME POLICY AND STRATEGY.

Hence, cybercrime takes many forms like Identity theft, Ransomware, DDoS attacks, Botnets, Spam and Phishing, Social Engineering, Malvertising, Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUP), Drive-By-Downloads, Remote Administration Tools (RAT), Exploit Kits, Scams, and many more.

After what I have said, according to the LTA last report on the internet, the usage of broadband data service in Liberia has increased substantially. The mobile penetration rate is about 75.8%. Liberia's dependency on broadband is significant with the presence of two giant telecommunication companies MTN & Orange. As Liberia enjoys a significant share of the Africa Coast to Europe submarine fiber (ACE), E-Government applications in the financial, banking, and educational sectors are being utilized or established.

However, Liberia has become aware of the threat of cybercrime that is affecting countries and companies globally. Amidst an infrastructure that is recovering from civil war, the Ebola virus and now struggling to survive the COVID-19 pandemic that has terminated the world, Liberia has a high vulnerability to cyber-attack. In 2016, one of Liberia's mobile operators (MTN Liberia) was attacked with malware - DDS (distributive denial of service). As a result of this attack, E-Government applications, like the banking and financial sectors were seriously hampered. The attack clearly indicated the urgent need for Liberia to institute measures to mitigate the effects of cyber-attacks.

Liberia's vulnerability to cybercrime is compounded by several factors, including the lack of awareness of cybercrime and the lack of a national legal and regulatory framework. Some entities in Liberia have now become cognizant of the need to provide public awareness campaigns to sensitize stakeholders on cybersecurity. The Ministry of Post & Telecommunications, with help from the Digital Liberia Project through USAID intends to carry out public awareness and sensitivity campaigns for this purpose. November of 2019, Liberia Telecommunications Corporation (LIBTELCO) hosted Liberia's second Cyber Security Forum to deliberate on the establishment of a national cyber-security policy and strategy against external invaders after Dr. Darren Wilkins then Managing Director for the entity at first hosted a national forum on preventing and mitigating cybercrimes in Liberia. The forum focused on creating awareness for cybersecurity and its implication for the government, the business, and society.

Although the Liberian Government recognizes the threat posed by cybercrime on the global community, Liberia has no national legislation on cybercrime. Some institutions like the Central Bank of Liberia and other institutions have developed policies aimed at preventing or mitigating the effects of cybercrime. The Cyber Security Policy at the CBL is a formal set of rules by which authorized users of the different technologies and systems are governed. The main purpose is to inform users: employees, contractors, and other authorized users of their obligatory requirements for protecting the technology and information assets used to facilitate their work. The National Telecommunications and ICT Policy 2019-2024 was developed by the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunication. However, the policy does not discuss elements related to cyber offenses and cybercrime.

Clearly in conclusion, with the rapid rate at which technology is advancing, Liberia's current ICT infrastructure needs to be rebuilt and improved to make it compatible with modern standards. In addition to rebuilding the system to meet modern standards and increased capacity to deal with cybercrime issues, there is a need for increased training in the technical and legal human capacity to provide expertise in dealing with cybercrime. Technical assistance for trained Liberians in cyber-attack prevention and remedy are highly desired.

Let me stop here by saying that technology is here to stay, we cannot escape from it, let's get used to it.

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