Cyber-Security: A Tool To Drive Economic Development In Ghana

By Abdul-Salam Shaibu
Article Cyber-Security: A Tool To Drive Economic Development In Ghana
AUG 13, 2023 LISTEN

The technological revolution has transformed traditional criminal activities into cybercrime, driven by development-motivated and criminal mindsets. The ongoing threat of cybercrime has led to the need to combat it by protecting cyberspace and other mediums. Cybersecurity is a complex issue involving laws, investigation, awareness, capacity building, training, establishing authorities, and building a cybersecurity culture. As technology advances, cybercriminals exploit loopholes, requiring a comprehensive program of study on cyber security. To fully understand the impact of cybercrime on the general economy, it is essential to consider Ghana's journey on digitization and how cybersecurity drives economic development.

Ghana's digitization drive has led to the introduction of paperless port systems, which allow import processes to be done online and capture relevant import information on the ICUMS (Integrated Customs Management System). This has created opportunities for cybercriminals to hack the system and alter import licenses, permits, and certificates to escape paying required fees. The digital services and payments platform allows Ghanaians to send money to various government ministries and organizations, providing a single point of access for all government services. The GhanaPostGPS is a global addressing system that assigns a unique address to every land and property in Ghana, enhancing the efficiency of providing addresses to every location and place in the country. The Bank of Ghana's three-tiered Merchant Account Categorization system and countrywide QR code payment solution, GhQR, have made merchant payments easier and reduced cash usage. Mobile Money Interoperability (MMI) systems enable quick and easy money transfers between mobile money wallets over different networks, reducing the risk of mobile money fraud. The Bank of Ghana's regulatory sandbox provides a forum for financial sector innovators to communicate with industry regulators to evaluate innovations in digital financial services and expand the regulatory environment and expertise. The introduction of E-VAT by the Ghana Revenue Authority has facilitated digitization of the collection of Value Added Tax, enhancing record keeping, reducing compliance costs, and simplifying the VAT refund process.

However, digitization has also invited more cybercriminals into the space, creating a herculean task for the Ghana Police Service. The increasing incidence of cybercrime largely affects businesses and economies in multiple ways. The Ghana Police Service is aware that the actual cost of cybercrime is difficult to accurately assess and quantify due to the non-reportage of many cybercrime cases. The increasing incidence of cybercrime discourages foreign investors from establishing businesses in countries tagged as hubs for cybercrime activities. The negative image cybercrime hangs on a country goes a long way to affect the economy by preventing foreign investment. Businesses thrive in a conducive and hygienic business environment that extends to cyberspace, such as credit and payment systems, e-commerce, and other industries.

According to the INTERPOL (International Police), cybercrimes, mostly cyber fraud, are received from member countries for investigation. Victims, mostly investors in these cases often lose money to cyber criminals whose identities or locations were traced to Ghana. Examples include romance scams, gold scams, investment fraud, inheritance schemes, and email compromises. According to the Cybercrime Unit, cyber fraud accounts for 60% of daily crime. The country lost $35 million in 2016, 69 million in 2017, and 97 million by August 2018. The E-Crime Bureau data estimated a cost of $230 million from 2016 to August 2018 while in 2019 $ 11 million was lost. The financial losses due to cybercrime are significant, but businesses also suffer other disastrous consequences, such as damaging brand identity and reputation, investor confidence, and a potential drop in share prices. Businesses may also be sued for data breaches that may result in fines and penalties. Cybercrime also negatively affects businesses, institutions, and governments through economic loss and reputational damage. The theft of intellectual property, business information, and trading interruptions cost a lot to fix, leading to a decline in consumer confidence, loss of existing and potential consumers to rivals, and negative media attention. Cybercrime is estimated to have cost damages totalling US$6 trillion globally in 2021, and in Ghana, from 2016-2022, $271.8 million was lost to cyber criminals. The Cybercrime Magazine projects that cybercrime will cost the world $10.5 trillion annually by 2025.

Cybercrime continues to disrupt Ghana's development, with incidents such as the reported hack of the Electricity Company of Ghana's (ECG) prepaid software and the alleged attack on the Ghana Electoral Commission's electronic transmission system during the 2016 election. The country has been blacklisted by major international e-commerce companies and online retailers, and residents are unable to purchase goods and services from some international online shops due to cyber fraud. A hacker recently told investigative journalist Mariana Van Zeller of National Geographic Channel that, he can hack into the system of the Customs Division to help the syndicate get away with paying the required import duties.

It is essential to prioritize cyber security as it dwindles the revenue generation of multinational firms and companies. Cyber security is a continuous process that involves technologies, processes, and practices designed to protect networks, devices, programs, and data from attack, damage, or unauthorized access.

To sanitize cyberspace, countries can take several steps, including creating a national cybersecurity strategy, creating a national cybersecurity agency, increasing cybersecurity awareness through campaigns, enhancing cybersecurity education, developing robust cybersecurity policies and standards, promoting international cooperation, investing in cybersecurity research and development, conducting regular cybersecurity audits, enacting laws and regulations, conducting regular cybersecurity audits, and promoting internet freedom, a multi-stakeholder governance model, and interoperable communication infrastructure.

Cybersecurity is a responsibility that falls on individuals, organizations, and governments. Companies must implement secure practices, educate employees on safety, align risk management and IT activities with the US National Cyber Strategy of 2018, and voluntarily adhere to acceptable cyber norms and international law. Countries must cooperate to ensure secure cyberspace, develop skilled cyber security personnel, build strong detective and deterrence capabilities, follow the National Institute of Standards and Technology Cybersecurity Framework and ISACA guidelines, and promote internet freedom, a multi-stakeholder governance model, and interoperable communication infrastructure for a robust information and knowledge economy.

Dr. Albert Antwi-Boasiako, Acting Director-General of the Cybersecurity Authority emphasized the importance of addressing cybercrime stemming from electronic waste. To successfully secure cyberspace from cybercriminals, governments of countries that export electronic waste should launch a public education campaign, encourage recycling used devices, and implement strict measures in the form of laws, awareness creation, security culture, investigations, capacity building, training, and the establishment of cyber security authorities.

The Ghanaian cyber security policy aims to educate and raise awareness of cyber threats, arrest cybercriminals, and recover proceeds from cybercrime. It also focuses on preventing data theft, attacks on computer systems, software, and network devices, and data retrieval. The Police Service has been working tirelessly to address cybercrime, focusing on major risks from attacks on national information infrastructure and lack of awareness among users and businesses. The Cyber Crime Unit, responsible for detecting and investigating crimes, has been involved in several cybercrime prosecutions since 2018. They have arrested and prosecuted several cybercrime perpetrators including Rosemond Brown for child pornography, Patricia Oduro Koranteng for a charlatanic advertisement, Patrick Asiedu for spreading fake news, and Solomon Doga for sextortion. The fight against cybercrime in Ghana dates back to 2008 when the Electronic Transaction Act (ETA 2008) was passed by parliament. The Act outlines various cyber offences, including stealing, charlatanic advertisement, and attempting to commit crimes.

The Data Protection Commission was established to protect personal data privacy and ensure IT systems' robustness. The e-Crime Bureau has significantly improved cyber security in Ghana, allowing organizations to investigate cybercrime thoroughly. The National Communication Authority's Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) registration aims to mitigate cybercrimes committed using mobile phones. In 2018, the Ministry for Communication, Cyber Security Authority, Computer Emergency Response Teams, and National Cyber Security Technical Working Group launched the National Cyber Security Awareness program to combat cybercrime. The program aims to raise awareness, promote reporting, and foster a culture of cyber security among children, the public, businesses, and the government.

The Cyber Security Act, 2020 (Act 1038), established the Cyber Security Authority, protects critical information infrastructure, regulates cyber security activities, and protects children online. The Act aims to promote secure and resilient cyberspace and prevent, manage, and respond to cyber security incidents in Ghana, aligning with the country's digital transformation agenda.

Cybersecurity is central in propelling economic development and growth in the current dispensation where digitization has become the paradigm shift. The protection of cyberspace helps businesses pursue value chain activities and turn profits for their owners and shareholders. A solid cybersecurity foundation is necessary for effective digital transformation, and businesses feel secure using digital procedures and technologies that stimulate innovation and expansion.

Securing cyberspace drives economic development, as it attracts foreign investors and encourages them to invest in businesses in a country. This, in turn, contributes to the economic development of the country.

The writer is an investigator and a Cybersecurity practitioner. E-mail:[email protected]. Website: