We’re committed to child online protection initiatives – CSA

Kenya’s communications regulator has said that the country experienced a record 860 million cyber-attacks in the last 12 months. The regulator said that “the frequency, sophistication and scale of cyber-threats” targeted at Kenya’s critical information infrastructure had increased dramatically. In 2017, Kenya experienced 7.7 million cyber attacks. In July, a high-profile cyber attack attributed to the pro-Russian hacking group Anonymous Sudan cut off access to more than 5,000 online government services in the country, including visa, passport and driving licence applications and renewals. The attack also disabled online train booking systems and mobile money transactions. The Communications Authority of Kenya on Monday said that 79% of the attacks recorded in the last 12 months were caused by cyber criminals infiltrating the computer systems of organisations. The regulator also said that 14% of the attacks involved malicious software, 6.5% involved cybercriminals flooding servers with traffic to overload their infrastructure and the remaining attacks targeted web applications. According to the regulator, Kenya is now the third most-targeted country by cyber criminals in Africa, after Nigeria and South Africa.

The Director-General of the Cyber Security Authority (CSA), says the Authority is committed to working with stakeholders to embark on some major policy initiatives geared towards child online protection.

He said ongoing was the development of a legislative instrument to support the implementation of the Cybersecurity Act, 2020 (Act 1038), with which United Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and other partners were greatly involved.

The Director-General said this at the launch of the 2024 edition of the National Cybersecurity Challenge (NCC) in Accra, which marks a milestone of an event that has imparted the third knowledge to thousands of school children across the country.

The theme for this year’s edition is “Empowering young minds, creating opportunities, promoting a safer digital Ghana.”

This initiative is aimed at promoting cyber safety and awareness among high school students by providing them with first-hand experiences in identifying, preventing, and mitigating digital threats, especially online child sexual exploitation and abuse.

Dr Antwi-Boasiako said the development of the National Child Online Protection (COP) Framework, was currently before Cabinet, and the development of guidelines to support child online protection initiatives, the annual Africa Safer Internet Day (ASID) in February, among others.

He said over the last 10 years, children and young adults had consistently been the two groups found most likely to go online.

“According to Statista, a global research platform, as of January 2024, an estimated 24.06 million Ghanaians were connected to the internet, with 7.60 million active on social media,” he added.

He said currently, Ghana was ranked eighth globally on daily time spent on social media with online child sexual exploitation and abuse among the top 10 cyber crimes in the world, and that this figure was expected to increase in the coming years if attention was not given to child online safety.

The Director-General said UNICEF and the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), had reported that almost 22,000 reports of child sexual abuse material that were accessed, shared, or produced in 2022 were from Ghana.

“In that same year, the Child Online Protection Division of the CSA conducted a survey in selected senior high schools in the Greater Accra region, aiming to collect information about the online habits, risks, and vulnerabilities of students using the internet”

“The key findings of the survey established that about 64.35 per cent reported receiving pornographic materials in various forms, including images, words, and videos,” he added.

He said another concerning statistic established that 55.90 per cent of students admitted to interacting with strangers they met online, highlighting the potential dangers of online meetings.

Dr Antwi-Boasiako said as a flagship programme of the Authority, it had been decided that the Challenge was run by a National Steering Committee to give it a national character and the needed impetus.

He urged their partners to be part of the Committee when called upon to support this exercise, calling civil societies, the media, businesses, and stakeholders across the country to support the event to empower children and to help keep them safe online.

Madam Joyce Odame, a Representative from UNICEF, expressed excitement for the innovative approach employed by the CSA to enhance the knowledge of all and sundry to stay smart in the online space.

She called on other relevant stakeholders to join the journey by supporting to equip the next generation to know how to use the digital space to their advantage.

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