Cyber Crimes Disrupting Technological Advancement

Over the last years, innovation in the financial sector in Zimbabwe has seen a lot of technological changes like the introduction of plastic as well as mobile money and this helped Zimbabwe to be a cash-lite economy.

By Lazarus Sauti 

Economist, Kudzai Manyanga, says a cash-lite society is one in which the use of cash volumes in circulation is condensed through the use of electronic transactions.

“A cash-lite economy takes place in a society where most of the purchases of products and services are made through the use of visa, credit or debit cards, electronic fund transfer rather than by cash,” he said.

Information Technology specialist, Clement Sinyangwe, adds that the use of real-time gross settlement systems (RTGS), electronic fund transfer, card and mobile money payments by corporates and individuals lessens cash shortage challenges.

As for senior economist, Bankers Association of Zimbabwe, Dr Sanderson Abel, plastic and mobile based payments have opened opportunities for Zimbabwe to drive its financial inclusion agenda.

However, this agenda is being threatened by cyber crimes such as credit card swapping, card cloning, hacking and phishing as companies and individuals are losing large amounts of money.

Laizah Mudzvorihondo, for instance, lost $557 when a Food World Supermarket till operator, Precious Moyo (30), swapped her People’s Own Savings Bank (POSB) card and withdrew cash from her account.

On 12 January this year, Mudzvorihondo bought goods in Food World Supermarket Coppacabana branch using her POSB Debit card and Moyo, who was the till operator, then swapped Mudzvorihondo’s card.

Mudzvorihondo only realised this the following morning when she received text messages showing a transaction of $557 that had been done using her debit card at N Richards Wholesalers without her knowledge.

Attorney-General, Prince Mashaya, also lost his $4 343 monthly salary when Martin Kapeta (24) allegedly connived with a shop assistant, Molleen Karen Ntoya (20) and illegally wiped out Mashaya’s money deposited into his Agribank account using a cloned debit card.

Bulawayo provincial police spokesperson, Assistant Inspector Abednico Ncube, says card cloning occurs when individuals leave their debit or credit cards with till operators or bank tellers who in turn swap them or connive with fraudsters to duplicate their cards.

“Card cloning uses a device to fraudulently copy bank details stored on the magnetic strip on a debit or credit card,” he said.

Experts estimate that close to $1 billion is lost through card cloning crimes annually.

In South Africa, for example, most cloning incidents are recorded around Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), as well as at retail merchants when cards are presented for payments of goods and services.

Mobile service providers in Zimbabwe have also raised concern over hackers who create applications which allow users to evade tariffs and this is affecting their revenue. Hacking is done when a person uses a computer to gain unauthorised access to data in a system.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe reported in 2016 that the country’s commercial banks have been hacked a combined 72 times between 2011 and 2015.

In its report, titled “Cyber crime globally and in Zimbabwe”, the RBZ noted 13 cases of credit card fraud, 24 cases of unauthorised bank accounts access, 10 cases of identity theft and 20 cases of phishing.

During these cyber attacks, Zimbabwe has lost unaccounted millions of dollars.

The Africa Cyber Security Report (2016) also noted that Africa has lost a record $2 billion to cyber criminals in 2016 alone.

In East Africa, Kenya recorded the highest losses with $171 million lost to cyber criminals; Tanzania also lost $85 million while Ugandan companies lost $35 million.

“Over one-third of organisations that experienced a breach in 2016 reported substantial customer, opportunity and revenue loss of more than 20 percent,” also read the Cisco 2017 Annual Cybersecurity Report.

Speaking during the Connected Summit 2017, Cisco Africa Regional General Manager, David Bunei said the increasing use of cyberspace and digital applications posed its own challenges and thus encouraged Chief Executive Officers to make cyber-security a business priority.

Electronics expert, Dr Samuel Chindaro, believes that cyber crime is disrupting technological developments in Zimbabwe and other African countries and therefore encouraged individuals and players in the banking sector to join hands and fight all forms of cyber crimes.

“It is critical to encourage the culture of cyber security among citizens and all national stakeholders,” he said.

As for financial intelligent specialist, Precious Santana, the government should mobilise resources not only to develop cyber security skills, but to sensitise, provide education and training to the public.

Information, Communication Technology and Cyber Security minister, Supa Mandiwanzira, believes a central cyber-incident management centre, where cyber crimes will be reported, is one of the viable solutions.

“It is important for our country to have a computer instant response centre to ensure all types of cyber crimes are reported. For example, where a bank is attacked, it has to be reported instantly and warnings sent out to other institutions,” he said.

For Information Technology specialist, Stalyn Chingarandi, law enforcement agents must be adequately trained if Zimbabwe is to curb cyber crimes.

“The country’s laws must also be compatible with international laws to permit maximum cooperation in fighting cyber crimes,” he advised.

Chingarandi also urged institutions to have robust information technology systems, which have access to world-class databases, and are able to monitor transactions generated from the Internet.

Bankers Association of Zimbabwe Dr Sanderson AbelLaizah Mudzvorihondo