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[] CIP in Simbabwe,

Cyber Crime Crisis Looms in Zimbabwe

Financial Gazette (Harare)
May 3, 2002 
Posted to the web May 3, 2002 
Joseph Ngwawi Business News Editor

IMAGINE your bank statement being transmitted spontaneously via
electronic mail to millions of individuals and companies across the
world because a virus has attacked the bank's computer system.

Chris Wilson - this is not his real name - says he once received
e-mail messages containing information on financial statements of
customers of a local commercial bank.

The above example is just the tip of the iceberg on how susceptible
the computer system could be to hackers and how incidents such as
these aid the new global fad of cyber crime.

Computer experts say at least one computer network in Zimbabwe is
attacked by hackers every 30 minutes and that the local private sector
is sitting on a time bomb amid fears cyber security is not accorded
the top priority that it deserves.

Although actual figures on the financial losses incurred by local
firms and organisations due to cyber crime are not documented,
Zimbabwe has not been spared some of the dangers of the new
information age.

In the United States, the financial losses due to cyber crime are
estimated at more than US$450 million a year.

According to computer experts, the Internet connection is the most
frequent point of attack. The laxity of information security policies
in the country just makes this worse.

Computer experts say almost all computer systems in the country have
been violated in one way or another in the past year, resulting in
billions of dollars worth of financial losses.

In just two of these cases, separate Harare-based companies lost
millions of dollars due to the sophisticated manipulation of the
accounting systems by their workers who colluded with some outsiders.

Other losses have occurred through theft of proprietary information,
which is later used by a company's competitors.

But David Behr, head of one of the country's leading Internet service
providers, Zimbabwe Online, says no cases of industrial espionage have
been recorded yet in Zimbabwe, adding that the main culprits are
usually the so-called "script kiddies" who spend most of their time
surfing at Internet cafes.

"The main culprits are not the government or the corporates but these
are usually fairly young people, probably male with a lot of time on
their hands," Behr said.

The script kiddies are usually able to break into an organisation's
personal files and use or alter the information.

Harare-based computer expert John Sheppard said the situation was
compounded by the absence of sound information security systems at
most Zimbabwean firms, which increased the chances of them falling
prey to cyber criminals.

He noted that the bulk of Zimbabwe's computer networks were not
properly protected against viruses, one of the means by which hackers
and other people could sabotage an organisation's database.

He said it was possible for sensitive information to be transmitted to
other people whenever a company's or bank's computer system is
attacked by a virus.

"Many outbreaks such as the outbreak of a variant of the Klez virus
that hit the country recently are totally controllable by a
combination of virus education, intelligent virus and general security
protection and by ensuring that programmes such as Outlook Express and
Internet are patched and updated to current patch levels," Sheppard

The Klez virus hit Zimbabwe's Internet industry two weeks ago,
completely shutting out more than 75 percent of the country's
companies and individuals from the rest of the world.

The virus affected access to the Internet by most companies and
deleted their files or documents, sending a warning signal that
Zimbabwe, as part of the global information village, must get its act
together or suffer major losses soon.

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