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Fighting the scourge of cybercrime

By , Lead Partner, Mazars Cybersecurity Center of Excellence.
17 Apr 2024
Wadi Mseddi, Lead Partner, Mazars Cybersecurity Center of Excellence.
Wadi Mseddi, Lead Partner, Mazars Cybersecurity Center of Excellence.

Cybercrime is expected to cost the world USD9.5 trillion in 2024, according to predictions in a report by Cybercrime Ventures. If that were measured as a country, it would be the third biggest economy in the world. Yet in the face of this dire cybersecurity threat, more than 20 countries on the African continent have not yet developed a national strategy to deal with cybersecurity (basing on the latest Global Cybersecurity Index published by the International Telecommunication Union).

Wadi Mseddi, Lead Partner - Mazars Cybersecurity Center of Excellence, notes that the research reports a shortfall of roughly four million cybersecurity professionals worldwide. “This shortfall is growing each year and has reached a point where the cybersecurity profession and expertise need to almost double immediately to be at full capacity.”

While the shortfall in cybersecurity professionals worldwide is alarming, Wadi suggests it is potentially far worse in Africa. This is due to the skills gap, increasing and more sophisticated cyber threats, digital transformation as well as regulatory compliance.

Mazars’ response to this urgent need has been the establishment of a data school in 2020 in South Africa, in the Johannesburg office, with the objective to produce data scientists at scale, primarily for the broader economy in order to assist with anomaly detection, predictive analytics, threat detection. This includes assisting its client with their digital transformation and to secure themselves against cyberattacks. In addition, a Cybersecurity Center of Excellence was established with the intent to support the development and delivery of cybersecurity services in collaboration with country offices.

Mseddi also notes that the last Global Cybersecurity Index published by the International Telecommunication Union demonstrates a substantial gap between the African region and Europe, with only seven African countries in the Top 50: “Considering that the Global Cybersecurity Index measures the commitment to cybersecurity, its latest results suggest that African governments are not fully committed to securing their cyberspace. This situation may increase the exposure of African organisations to cybersecurity threats while operating in their local/regional cyberspace.

“With social engineering attacks getting smarter, and cybercriminals becoming more creative (something that artificial intelligence is exacerbating), cybersecurity is no more the sole responsibility of IT people. Every employee is responsible for ensuring the security of the information system at their level. Furthermore, cybersecurity is not only about technology and solutions, but also about people and processes. To secure your information system you need to understand the business, identify the resources that support your critical activities, and identify the risks that you are facing. You then need to treat the non-acceptable risks either by avoiding them, transferring them or by reducing them to an acceptable level - by designing and implementing organisation-wide technological-, organisational-, people- and physical-security measures,” says Mseddi.

That’s not all, he says: “Identifying and treating cyber risks will help organisations prevent cyberattacks, and if combined with threat intelligence, organisations will also be able to better anticipate cyberattacks and, in some situations, even prevent them before they happen. Threat intelligence involves consuming information about cyberattacks from external sources: if there is a new form of attack happening, whether in the US or South Africa, this information is available and can be reconfigured to local circumstances.”

That said, considering that every organisation is potentially a target to cyberattacks, Mseddi says it becomes crucial to “be ready”, which means detecting on time; responding immediately and efficiently to cyberattacks, while reducing their impact. “Consequently, some additional measures need to be implemented by organisations to reach an adequate cyber resiliency level. They consist mainly of designing and implementing processes and technological solutions to detect cybersecurity events and take appropriate response and recovery actions on time.”

Since the visualisation of the threats facilitates the cyber fraud detection, the data school has developed tools to help clients reduce their exposure to cyber fraud through such visualisation of data taken from clients during forensic tests, showing any fraud risks on a live basis that are present within the business. This gives management tools they can interact with from a transactional monitoring perspective, to drill down and identify anomalies in the data, thereby enabling the opportunity for proactive rather than reactive detection.

While the solution is built for forensics, it can be utilised to create an operational solution for the client. The benefits of this solution are improved threat detection, faster incident response, enhanced predictive capabilities and optimised resource allocation.

A case study of one insurance client, where a significant amount of work was done using analytics and visualisations helped them identify fraud risks and manage them proactively – thereby increasing fraud detection through forensics from zero to 30%. It identifies anomalies in data, highlighting outliers within data and areas of higher risk for further investigation. It is a more targeted approach to identifying fraud and risk.

Data school takes unemployed graduates enrolled in the YES (Youth Employment Service) programme and trains them to become data analysts and data scientists.

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