http://allafrica.com/stories/200205030157.html 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 said. 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. - ISN is currently hosted by Attrition.org To unsubscribe email majordomoat_private with 'unsubscribe isn' in the BODY of the mail.
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