A report on the activities of West African cyber criminals has been released by Joint Trend Micro and INTERPOL. The report which is part of the ongoing Cyber-criminal Underground Economy Series (CUES) revealed that scams targeting individuals and businesses have grown exponentially since 2013.
The INTERPOL survey showed West African cybercriminals rake in an average $2.7 million from businesses and $422,000 from individuals. The two threat actors listed in the report are Yahoo Boys and Next-Level cybercriminals.
“Yahoo boys rely on Yahoo apps to communicate, they focus on less technically advanced schemes, including advanced-fee, stranded traveler and romance scams under the supervision of a ringleader. Next-Level Cybercriminals are able to execute more sophisticated attacks, such as Business Email Compromise (BEC) and tax scams. Next-Level Cybercriminals also maintain connections and accounts overseas as a way to feign legitimacy with their victims and keep law enforcement at arm’s length,” the report reads.
To pull off these sophisticated social engineering tactics, Trend Micro significantly increased its research and effort into the crimes committed by Next-Level Cybercriminals.
In Ghana where the ritualization of online fraud, sakawa, is practiced, Sakawa recognizes that a Supreme Being blesses scammers with protection and good fortune, eliminating the unethical implications and encouraging West Africans to defraud foreign victims.
A survey conducted by INTERPOL revealed that each year nearly half of the 1 million graduates from more than 668 African universities are unemployed.
“This joint paper shows that criminals across the region are becoming more technically savvy, and this emerging underground market will require an even stronger law enforcement response in the future, both in terms of training for investigators and ensuring the appropriate legislation is in place,” said Noboru Nakatani, Executive Director of INTERPOL’s Global Complex for Innovation (IGCI).
Highlighting the importance of the research, Nakatani noted that the research also puts into limelight, the importance of public-private partnerships in identifying and arresting criminals, as well as educating businesses and governments about cyber threats.
One such collaboration in 2016 resulted in the arrest of a Nigerian national who had extorted $60 million from businesses around the world using BEC scams.
Despite roadblocks related to investigating cybercrime in the West African region, the INTERPOL survey revealed 30 percent of crimes reported to law enforcement each year lead to arrests.