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Govt loses US$21m to internet fraud— Cybercrime unit

By: Suad Yakubu and Gifty Owusu Kwarteng
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Participants in the forum
Participants in the forum


THE country lost US$21 million to internet fraud activities in 2018, the Head of the Cybercrime Unit at the Criminal Investigative Department (CID), Dr Herbert Gustav Yankson, has disclosed.


He explained that the amount lost constituted 60 per cent, topping the list. He added that fraud was hinged basically on deception which forms the basis of social engineering.

Social engineering is “described as the art of psychological trickery, the manipulation of behaviour often through deception to influence unsuspecting users, to unwittingly divulge sensitive information which can be used to gain access to the target computer systems and perform actions that cause harm to the confidentiality, integrity or availability of the computer system.”

He further stated that another worrying phenomenon on the high was “sextortion”, for which the most victims were women.  He said sextortion constituted 15 per cent.

Sextortion is simply the sexual exploitation of women and a play on their vulnerability with the aim of extorting money from them.

At a forum to commemorate this year’s “Girls in ICT Day” organised by the Internet Society (ISOC- Ghana chapter) and its partners on April 25 in Accra, Dr Yankson noted that at the centre of all those cybercrimes was social engineering.

“We lost US$105 million for the whole of last year and fraud was consisting about US$21 million and ‘sextortion’ was US$49,000. Therefore, a total of about US$22 million was taken away from victims through social engineering.
“About 60 per cent was fraud and 15 per cent “sextortion” and these are based on social engineering because some of these ladies share their pictures with people they don’t know. Therefore, 75 per cent of fraud is related to social engineering,” he said.

The event was on the theme: “Security and Digital Privacy with focus on Social Engineering.”

The role of social media
Dr Yankson also underscored the role of social media as a contributory factor to the spate of sextortion in the country’s cyberspace.

 “Through social engineering, our ladies are exposing themselves through social media,” he said.
That, he said, was an indication that women were taking a lot of pictures.

Awareness
Dr Yankson also noted that awareness creation and sensitisation against social engineering could help to curb the menace.

He, therefore, called for education to be intensified in this threat area.
“Awareness creation and sensitisation can deal with this situation. So that also goes to the fact that we do a lot more and particularly I am happy to be part of this awareness creation because it is a form of education,” he said.

An Open Data Expert at the Ministry of Communication, Mr Eric Akumiah, also stressed on the need for awareness creation.
“Awareness is the key,” he said.

About ISOC
The Internet Society Global was founded in 1992 by a number of people involved with the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

The vision of the ISOC is the “Internet for everyone”, with the mission of supporting and promoting the development of the Internet as a global technical infrastructure, a resource to enrich people’s lives and a force for good in society.