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The power of blockchain as a tool to fight cybercrime and fraud

Emmanuel Babalola, director Binance Africa.

A look at Binance’s efforts towards User Protection and Cyber Security in Africa to ensure a secure and sustainable growth of the global crypto ecosystem

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | With the current increase in the adoption of financial technology in the world, unsuspecting people continue to fall prey to cybercrimes – ranging from phishing scams to website spoofing, hacks, malware, ransomware, and other forms of attacks that pose as cybersecurity threats globally, according to Emmanuel Babalola, the current director of Binance Africa, a cryptocurrency exchange firm.

Babalola says ransomware attacks have become one of the biggest cybersecurity threats, affecting nearly all industries dependent on the internet to function, from healthcare institutions to supply chain networks and financial institutions, among others.

This comes as a 2019 research carried out by the Journal of Global Information Technology Management, among banks in Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zambia revealed that financial institutions were at high risk from cyber threats, such as hacking and ransomware attacks.

The report also stated that in 2016, Ghana’s financial institutions were reported to experience more than 400,000 incidents related to malware, 44 million related to spam emails, and 280,000 related to botnets; and a 2011 Deloitte study showed that only 40% of banks in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania were prepared against cyber-threats.

This is a critical situation as it leaves the safety of depositors’ funds and assets at risk, and further reduces trust in financial institutions, impacting the rates of inclusion, among other key factors. Now taking down these dark web operators who thrive off ransomware is not an easy feat, as many financial institutions are yet to be fully equipped with sophisticated cyber defenses which prevent them from being able to predetermine and detect illicit activities as well as protect customers from impending breaches.

However, in the quest to find the right tools to fight off cybercrime, blockchain has been identified as a potential game-changer, Babalola said.

He said a successful case study remains Binance’s Bulletproof Exchanger Project which helped take down a major cybercriminal ring laundering over $42M in ransomware attacks.

He said the ring, also known as FANCYCAT, had been running multiple criminal activities: distributing cyber-attacks; operating a high-risk exchanger, and laundering money from dark web operations and high-profile cyber-attacks worth over $500M from ransomware and millions more from other cybercrimes.

“The FANCYCAT takedown was made possible by a blockchain analysis by Binance – which showed a network of money launderers living inside macro exchanges, depositing, and withdrawing to each other to clean the money,” he says.

“Understanding this diagnosis, Binance proactively took the necessary steps to disrupt this illicit activity by applying a two-pronged approach which includes implementing their detection mechanisms to identify and off board suspicious accounts and collaborating with law enforcement to build cases and take down criminal groups.”

Babalola says by using blockchain analysis as a tool, financial institutions in Africa may be able to more easily identify suspicious patterns associated with illicit activities that can impact the security of their customers’ funds.

He says as more and more people begin to shift to digital payments on the continent, efforts must be intensified towards ensuring that all gaps are closed, and rates of such crimes are kept at a minimum.

He added that as Africans continue to adopt cryptocurrency as a financial tool, potential collaborations with platforms such as Binance who have been able to establish successful anti-fraud systems will be a driving force in boosting adoption, creating a safer ecosystem, and improving the image of the greater crypto space.

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