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U.S. rallies against rising cyber threats as Africa records $4b losses

By Adeyemi Adepetun
14 September 2022   |   4:10 am
Amidst the rising profile of cyber criminals across the globe, the United States of America has rallied its allies and other nations to collaborate with her to stem the tide.

• Claims global businesses lose $10b to Russia’s cyberattack on Ukraine
• America wants more women in cybersecurity industry
• Working with Nigeria and other African countries military

Amidst the rising profile of cyber criminals across the globe, the United States of America has rallied its allies and other nations to collaborate with her to stem the tide.

The U.S., which said the cybersecurity industry exploded in the last 10 years, stressed that collaboration will be central to moving a step ahead of the criminals.

Speaking at the weekend, at the ongoing Cybersecurity Virtual Reporting Tour, scheduled for August 29 to September 16, organised by Foreign Press Centers of the United States, with the theme: “A Shared Responsibility: Prioritising Public-Private Partnerships in Cybersecurity,” the Commander of Cyber National Mission Force, at U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM), Major General William J. Hartman, who spoke on “The U.S. Government’s Security Cooperation Overseas,” said the United States Cyber Command is the United States military cyber component, which is really charged with three things—defending the Department of Defense networks; supporting joint forces in cyberspace and defending the nation.”

Hartman said the USCYBERCOM is an organisation, a little over 2,000 strong forces, from every military service with a number of civilian components to include Defense Intelligence Agency, service component civilians, and National Security Adviser (NSA) counterparts, who are in direct contact with nation state cyber actors seeking to disrupt, degrade or undermine the U.S. and its partners’ advantage.

Amidst this call by the U.S. a report by Ventures Africa, said cybercrime is threatening Nigeria and other African countries’ economy. It revealed that most economies in the continent lost 10 per cent of their Gross Domestic Products (GDPs) to it in 2021, while the continent recorded $4 billion losses – 3.5 per cent of its $115 billion digital economy.

The report said by 2050, analysts predict that the continent’s digital economy will be worth $712 billion but if the cost of cybercrime continues, Africa may suffer an estimated loss of about $25 billion.

As such, the U.S. said efforts should be put together to prevent any negative predictions. By tackling some of these challenges, Hartman said the USCYBERCOM proactively pursues foreign adversaries abroad to defend critical infrastructure, “our defense industrial base and the department of Defense Information networks. We work missions from election security to nation state espionage and often are involved in tackling some of the most significant challenges that our nation faces.”

Hartman revealed that when the Solar Winds compromise happened, USCYBERCOM hunted for bad actors abroad, discovered their activities and exposed it.

According to him, when the Colonial Pipeline was ransomed, “we worked alongside our domestic counterparts at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security to resolve it, and we imposed costs on the adversary. When we saw signs Russia was increasing its aggression towards Ukraine, we deployed our largest defensive’s cyber team in history there. When nation state adversaries started targeting our elections, we stood up an Election Security Group with the National Security Agency and enabled our domestic partners and pursued foreign actors.”

Citing the NotPetya cyberattack conducted by Russian cyber actors targeting Ukraine in 2017, he said because of these irresponsible cyber operations, that attack impacted not just Ukraine but also businesses around the world, costing a total of $10 billion to date.

The U.S chief also said that an unprecedented group of allies and partners, including the European Union, the United Kingdom and North Atlantic Treaties Organisation (NATO), joined the United States in exposing and criticizing China’s malicious cyber activities as threatening security and stability in cyberspace.

According to him, collective cybersecurity is about trust, adding that the Internet isn’t siloed, so neither can the approach be.

“We know that we’re stronger together, more resilient, therefore more safe. For example when the Russian SVR targeted the U.S. government for a long-term espionage campaign through the Solar Winds supply chain hack, what did the U.S. do? We hosted the nation’s largest cyber defense exercise, training alongside more than 20 countries on how to better defend our most critical networks because we know when we’re all harder targets for malicious cyber actors our world is more stable and more secure, allowing for free trade, an open economy, and a democratic exchange of ideas,” Hartman stated.

Speaking on relationships with militaries of African countries, the U.S. chief said, “I’m not allowed to reference specific countries, but obviously Africa is a very important part of the world. We have a number of good relationships there and we’ll continue to work with countries that articulate an interest in working with us to be protected against common threats.”

On her part, Hartman’s Deputy, Ms. Holly Baroody, said to address all of the challenges and to build solid partnerships, there is need for talent, stressing that an excellent cybersecurity posture starts with excellent people.

Baroody said the globe exists in a space that’s constantly evolving “and we have to evolve with it. In cyberspace this means investing in the sort of talent that doesn’t just address today’s threats, but can mitigate tomorrow’s unexpected crises.”

According to her, the increased complexity of technology and threats requires highly skilled individuals with diverse perspectives and creative approaches. She said the global community needs more cybersecurity talent in both the public and private sector.

Giving examples, she said in America, women make up just 24 per cent of the cybersecurity workforce despite representing half of our U.S. population, stressing that combined with that, there’s an estimated 700,000 cybersecurity jobs that go unfilled.

“The cybersecurity industry has exploded in the last decade in both the public and private sectors and what’s unique about cyberspace is there’s no shortage of partners here that we can work with. Despite our differences, so many nations share the same goal of an open, secure digital world,” she stated.

According to her, malicious cyber activity remains a common threat among many countries. “So often the fact that we have a common threat, we know we’re each under different threats from cyber espionage, cyberattack, that gives us a common threat to work from that can get past, not necessarily focused on some of the other differences that we have across our nations. And we’ve found a lot of benefit to be able to do that level of information sharing and cooperation in the cyber arena,” she stated.