Bongani Ndlovu, Chronicle Reporter
THERE is a compelling need for rural communities to be conscientised on cyber security threats including their rights as consumers as part of efforts to reduce cases of unsuspecting people being swindled online.
This emerged during an outreach programme held at Zezani Business Centre in Beitbridge District, Matabeleland South last Friday.
The meeting involved key stakeholders that included Post and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ), Consumer Protection Commission (CPC), Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Praz) and police.
In line with the President Mnangagwa’s development agenda of leaving no place and no one behind, the Government engaged villagers to share vital information on financial literacy in terms of mobile financial services, curbing cyberbullying and cyber security and other Government services.
During the meeting, Potraz made a presentation on issues to do with passwords and cyberbullying, while CCZ spoke about consumer rights and responsibilities in the postal and telecommunications sector.
RBZ highlighted issues on mobile financial services while Praz and CPC made presentations on their roles.
Police engaged the community on how to curb cybercrime and where they can get recourse.
During deliberations, some community members pointed out that they were not aware of the dangers of cybercrimes.
In separate interviews, some participants said they once fell victim to online scams.
Mrs Sophie Ndlovu said the outreach programme was an eye opener.
“I received a message that I had won money and I should send my pin code and bank card details. From this engagement, I now know that there are conmen out there who are capable of stealing money from us via our phones,” she said.
“This engagement was fruitful because I did not know anything about fraud, cyber security and the RBZ presentation was an eye-opener, especially in this community where people transact using forex.”
Another villager Ms Fry Ncube said: “I didn’t know that there were people who could steal from us from using technology. This engagement has turned out to be good for us as a people and we have learnt a lot.”
Ms Rachel Tlou (22) said, through the outreach programmes, she can now report cyberbullies to the police.
“As a young person I spend a lot of time on social media and there are some people who bully us, especially on WhatsApp. I’m now informed when it comes to such issues and in the event of being harassed, I can report to the police,” she said.
Ms Moreblessing Singo of Whunga Village commended the organised for the meeting, saying it is critical for rural communities to be educated on cyber security including their rights as consumers.
“I will be an ambassador and spread the word in the village on cyberbullying as many of my peers have been harassed and have no clue on know how to deal with such cases,” she said.
Potraz consumer affairs manager, Mr Phibion Chaibva said the engagement was successful with more outreach programme set to be conducted.
“This is a programme that will be taken to all provinces as stakeholders try to reach out to marginalised areas. The objective is to leave no one behind in terms of digital financial literacy and also teach our elders on cyber security so that they can safeguard their funds and curb identity theft,” he said.
Cyber security risks in the country are on the increase with 82 percent of businesses saying they experienced attacks last year as cyber-criminals took advantage of growing use of digital platforms to conduct business to attack the supporting infrastructures.
The use of multiple devices from various locations on different networks as people work from home are also exposing businesses to cyber security threats such as data breaches.
As the country moves more towards being a cashless society, the financial services sector is also facing growing risk of cybercrime, including phishing and bank card cloning.
Research findings show that the state of the threats in Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe, the most common cyber security threats cited are malware, web-application attacks, email phishing and impersonation, identity theft, data breaches and denial of services.
Zimbabwe is a signatory to a number of international and regional conventions and treaties. Like many other countries in the region, Zimbabwe is in the process of harmonising its cyber security with those of the region to increase international cooperation in the fight against cybercrime.
Last year in December, the Government gazetted the Data Protection Act. The law safeguards users in cyberspace and that it is in line with similar laws in other countries. — @bonganinkunzi