Cameroon tightens Internet trade security


Cameroon has over the years struggled with cybercrime. Cameroon has begun using online security technology authorities say will boost confidence levels in the exchange of information over an increasingly insecure Internet.

The launch of the Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) centre makes Cameroon the first sub-Saharan African country to use the technology.

Experts say the PKI sheathes transfer of data between cyber users and reveals the true identities of all those involved, making it safer to carryout financial and commercial deals.

Cameroon has witnessed a surge in cyber crime over the last decade. A 2009 global study of 27 million websites by cyber security firm McAfee found Cameroonian websites to be "the most dangerous" in the world for unsuspecting surfers.

McAfee's 'site reputation database' found more than half the sites tested in Cameroon's domain space (sites ending in the abbreviation "dot cm") to be engaged in shady behaviour, such as password-stealing or spam-sending software.

It however said "the slim distinction between 'dot cm' and 'dot com'" could account for the surge.

The advent of the PKI centre and others planned for the far-flung regions would ascertain the quality of information exchanged electronically, their source and destination, time and timing, privacy and an assurance that such records could serve as evidence in a court of law.

The project is jointly funded by South Korea and Cameroon for $3.5 million.

The centre's opening is the culmination of an accord signed between the two governments in September 2010, with the aim of jump-starting Cameroon's e-government system and creating a reliable cyber space.

The agreement includes trainings, awareness workshops, sensitisation seminars, provision of PKI equipment and installing the pilot programme.

Cameroon Posts and Telecommunications minister Jean Pierre Biyiti Bi Essam said he was pleased to announce to businessmen that they can now safely do business electronically thanks to the PKI.

Those intending to do online transactions would have to use two PKI keys. First, there is the 'public key’ which can be seen by all users and, a corresponding ‘unique private key’ to be used for confidential transactions.

The National Agency for Information and Communication Technologies (ANTIC) will serve as the Pubic Administration Certification Authority. ANTIC will digitally sign and publish the keys bound to every given user.

The South Korean government will also assist Cameroon for a two-year period in the maintenance of PKI hardware and software.

"I strongly believe that Cameroon is going to make considerable progress,” said South Korea’s Ambassador to Cameroon, June Hyuck Cho.