Understanding Africa’s Emerging Cyber Threats

Understanding Africa’s Emerging Cyber Threats

Rising internet penetration and advancements in digital technology are changing the nature of conflict, cooperation, and competition across the African continent. As it has it has globally, the spread of information, communications, and related technologies is changing the nature of national security challenges and threats across Africa. These threats are exploited by a broad array of actors, who vary significantly in their capabilities and intentions, from lone wolf hackers to complex cybercriminal enterprises to nation states. The Africa Center aims to expand understanding of the key challenges of digital technology on national security, how cyber threats are likely to evolve in the coming decade, and what this means for security sector actors across the Africa.

Through its cyber programming, the Africa Center will examine the main national and citizen security threats that result from Africa’s digital revolution:

  • Espionage. Cyberspace has fundamentally changed the methods and means through which states gather information on one another and their citizens. Though the most significant cyber espionage concerns in Africa have centered around China, espionage and surveillance capabilities are rapidly diffusing across the continent.
  • Critical Infrastructure Sabotage. Africa’s government networks, military systems, banking and telecommunications industries are vulnerable to cyberattacks that seek to disable or destroy them. Though state actors or criminal networks are a concern, the risks of cyber sabotage resulting from an accident or negligence is also high.
  • Theft. The spread of cyberspace is providing tech-savvy groups with novel business opportunities and new means to steal, transfer, or extort resources. Growing internet penetration rates in Africa has both led to new kinds of cyber-dependent criminal activities, such as business email compromise or romance scams, as well transformed the financing and market dynamics of more traditional organized crime networks.
  • Military Strategies and Tactics. Though the most immediate effect of the spread of cyberspace has been to transform non-violent means of covert action and coercive statecraft, enhanced surveillance capabilities and emerging technologies such as drones are making their presence felt on the African battlefield.