People will not buy goods from Africa if they fear they will become the victim of a cyber-crime. Matthew White, the Chief Executive Officer of Iona Press Services, said Africa needed to develop a strong biometrics system to deal with the menace. He was addressing the ACT 2005 Summit in Johannesburg last week."We are very cautious with countries like Nigeria, Kenya and Indonesia when it comes to placement of orders and making payments over the Internet," he said. White said the three countries had bad track records with regard to use of credit cards and honouring transactions made over the Internet. He said many banks had lost millions of dollars through fraud and interception of transactions on the Internet."You can send products to Nigeria, Kenya or Indonesia for an order made through the Internet and never get paid for it," he said. He warned businesses and banks to watch out for cybercrime to avoid losses to fraudsters.

Biometrics is a system that measures the physical properties of individuals such as finger prints, hand geometry or voice patterns. White said technology market research group Gartner had predicted that 60 per cent of security breach costs incurred by businesses are perpetrated by company insiders - working alone or in conspiracy with outsiders."The Gartner reports indicates that businesses must take steps to guard themselves against insiders or resign to suffering significant losses," White said.

He said online credit card fraud had become a "growth industry" that could cost businesses as much as US$60 billion by the end of the year. "These are areas where biometrics could be employed to protect business from such losses," White said. He, however, regretted that such a system was unlikely to be developed since the cost of online fraud to credit card companies such as Visa and Mastercard remains negligible. "This situation is likely to improve only when one of the major card companies suffers major losses," he said. He urged businesses with sensitive information on their networks to be pro-active in combating cyber crime. Biometrics has several benefits over other identification technologies, 'they cannot be lost, stolen or forgotten, and also cannot easily be shared. Meanwhile, US Attorney General John Ashcroft announced the indictment of 19 individuals who are alleged to have founded, moderated and operated "" - one of the largest illegal online centers for trafficking in stolen identity information and documents, as well as stolen credit and debit card numbers.

The 62-count indictment, returned by a federal grand jury in Newark, New Jersey today, alleges that the 19 individuals from across the United States and in several foreign countries conspired with others to operate "Shadowcrew," a website with approximately 4,000 members that was dedicated to facilitating malicious computer hacking and the dissemination of stolen credit card, debit card and bank account numbers and counterfeit identification documents, such as drivers' licenses, passports and Social Security cards.

The indictment alleges a conspiracy to commit activity often referred to as "carding" - the use of account numbers and counterfeit identity documents to complete identity theft and defraud banks and retailers.

The East African Standard