Cybersecurity Awareness for African Journalists

Cybersecurity Awareness for African Journalists


The importance of cybersecurity for African journalists cannot be overemphasized since they stand a significant chance of suffering targeted cyberattacks. Consider Sandra, an African investigative journalist, who was on the verge of publishing an explosive report but suffered a cybersecurity issue. She noticed she could not access her files because they were encrypted and a message appeared on her computer asking her for a ransom before she could regain access to the files on her computer. This scenario is not hypothetical – African journalists face increasing risks of cybersecurity attacks and data breaches. Did you know that Piers Morgan, a journalist with an international reputation working for the highly rated News UK, saw his Twitter account hacked and wiped clean by an unidentified hacker?

The hacker posted profanity, and racial slurs, and threatened to expose his Twitter communications with celebrities. This explains why African journalists must remain aware of cybersecurity attacks, and cyber threats and protect themselves and their sources from hacking and cyber-attacks.

Why African journalists need cybersecurity awareness

African journalists can play a vital role in Africa’s economic growth, development, and transformation if they get the necessary digital skillset. These required digital skills can be jeopardized and hinder journalists from providing accurate and timely information. Journalistic credibility helps media organizations have a reputation for being credible and trustworthy in their reporting. As such, these organizations can remain financially viable and promote transparency and development.

A cyber-resilient, financially viable, and reliable media industry can contribute to the growth of the African economy. However, African journalists need heightened levels of cybersecurity awareness. The next editions of this blog will do a deep dive into the various cybersecurity practices that all African journalists should know. 

Cybersecurity for African Journalists data protection

African journalists should stay updated on the latest cyber threats, such as hacking and phishing, and learn how to avoid them. By doing so, they can recognize potential risks and take appropriate measures to protect themselves and their sources from cyber attacks. This knowledge is required for the safety of journalists and their sources. A cyber-resilient journalist or media company instills confidence in its readers, partners, and investors.

Once a journalist or media house is reputed for propagating harmful information as was the case with Piers Morgan, the journalist or media house loses credibility. Critical is the security of sources who communicate sensitive and strategic information with journalists and media houses.

If media houses and journalists fail to adopt cybersecurity strategies that protect these sources, news sources will feel insecure and refuse to share information with journalists. The consequences of such actions will minimize transparency and can have devastating effects on economic growth. Ryan Whelan puts the need for cybersecurity awareness and protection in very straight terms “Stay abreast of new threats and protect yourself!”

Cyber attacks can result in losing sensitive information, such as sources and unpublished stories. Similarly, hackers can access a journalist’s social media account to spread false information meant to deceive or confuse the public. This can cause problems for journalists, who may be accused of misinformation and face legal consequences. Cyber attacks and data breaches can have severe financial and reputational consequences for media organizations and journalists. 

Omar Radi in Morocco and Samuel Ogundipe in Nigeria saw their computers hacked and infected with malware, which allowed the hackers to steal personal and work information concerning reporting on very sensitive information. This explains why African journalists require legal and technological means to safeguard their information and devices connected to cyberspace.

A breach of sensitive information can lead to losing the trust of readers and advertisers. This can result in a loss of revenue and potentially even the closure of media organizations. By protecting themselves against cyber-attacks and data breaches, journalists can help to ensure the sustainability of media organizations and the growth of the African economy. Besides the financial loss from the reputational cost of cybersecurity, cyberattacks can steal money from journalists’ bank accounts.

Unauthorized access to a journalist’s data would release information about confidential sources, personal and family information, personal transactions, communication, and movements. Journalists’ lives will be at stake if this information lands in the wrong hands. It is important to note that cyber attacks target any device connected to the internet. These would include computers and mobile phones. Mobile Money transactions are also important targets for cyber attacks. 

How can African journalists protect themselves online?

According to Ginny Badanes of Microsoft’s Democracy Forward Initiative, “Journalists around the world are increasingly subject to physical, cyber, and legal attacks …  To enhance their safety, cloud computing, AI, cyber protections, and pro-bono legal support programs are crucial tools.” Ginny reaches the fact that African journalists must protect themselves against cyberattacks and data breaches. Cyberattacks can come in many forms, such as phishing attacks, malware, and ransomware.

Data breaches can occur when hackers access sensitive information such as email addresses, passwords, and personal information of sources. Sometimes, journalists can release significant information that hackers may use to access their resources without authorization. Journalists must take proactive measures to protect themselves against these attacks. This includes using two-factor authentication, encrypting sensitive information, and using a virtual private network (VPN) when accessing the internet from public Wi-Fi networks.

Protecting African journalists against cyberattacks and data breaches is fundamental for Africa’s economic transformation. Journalists play a crucial role in promoting awareness and transparency and reporting on the successes and failures of African businesses. The next blogs will go into more detail and explain how African journalists can leverage open-source resources to protect themselves from cyberattacks. For example, in this blogpost, I share 5 ways to manage and protect passwords

Cyberattacks and data breaches can put journalists at risk and undermine the credibility and trustworthiness of the organizations they work for. This can hurt the economy as a whole, as trust and confidence are essential for economic growth. Journalists provide a platform for businesses, organizations, and individuals to share their stories, experiences, and ideas, which is crucial for innovation and growth.

In discussing the dangerous effects of cyber attacks and data breaches Bob Carver says “Data breaches and cyber hacks into large corporate entities can harm millions of Americans who use their services.” If large and wealthy corporations are subject to cyber attacks, African journalists should be conscious they are potential targets because of the volume and quality of information they handle. 

In addition to professional risks, the safety of the family of journalists could be significant collateral damage of cyber attacks. In addition to the technical protection skills mentioned above, which will be the substance of future blogs, African journalists should advocate for stronger cybersecurity data protection, and data privacy regulations. A cyber-resilient press is a fundamental requirement that can contribute to the transformation of Africa’s economy and improve chances for continuous transformation, growth, and development. 

In conclusion, African journalists need cybersecurity, which is important for their safety and for promoting transparency and democracy. By protecting themselves against cyber attacks, African journalists can improve their reputation and credibility. The economic benefits of cybersecurity are significant, as a secure digital environment encourages trust and confidence in online transactions, which drives economic growth. By investing in cybersecurity, African media organizations can protect their assets and reputation and create a more conducive environment for growth and innovation.


In the comment section below, let’s discuss how cyber-resilient journalists can protect themselves, and their sources and help promote Africa’s economic and development transformation: 

      • How can m governments promote cybersecurity awareness and protect African journalists and media organizations from cyber threats and attacks?

      • Do syndicates of African journalists play a significant role to advance the cybersecurity of journalists?

      •  I like to hear about your experiences with cybersecurity attacks, what happened, how it happened, and how you reacted. 

    2 thoughts on “Cybersecurity Awareness for African Journalists”

    1. That is a very rich article. We often don’t look at this part but it poses a serious threat to information

    2. Pingback: Lessons from a cybersecurity training and awareness session in Cameroon (Part I) - Afri-Transformers

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