Faculty-student team investigated instances of cyber-crime in sub-Saharan Africa.

Dr. Samuel Olatunbosun, Cytyra Martineau, and Nathanial Edwards

Cybercrime is a serious threat around the world. Collectively, the impact of cybercrime accounts for the loss of billions of dollars ranging from identity theft to significant threats to national security.

The average American may be primarily concerned about cyberthreats close to home. However, cybercrime does not have borders, and many countries are not able to harness cybercrime. Because cybersecurity is a relatively new arena for criminal activity, legislation in many countries has not caught up with the changing times.

Samuel Olatunbosun, Ph.D. of Norfolk State University (NSU) and two of his students, Nathanial Edwards and Cytyra Martineau, investigated instances of cybercrime in sub-Saharan Africa. Their research was possible through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Summer Research Team (SRT)  Program for Minority Serving Institutions.

The SRT Program is designed to increase scientific leadership at Minority Serving Institutions in DHS research areas. The program provides faculty and student research teams the opportunity to conduct research at university-based DHS Centers of Excellence.

Olatunbosun and his students performed their research at the Borders, Trade, and Immigration Center at the University of Houston in Houston, Texas.

The team investigated instances of cybercrime in geographic regions of sub-Saharan Africa. In 10 weeks, the team studied about 100 published research articles to evaluate types of cybercrime and then identify patterns and common themes. The team gathered and organized existing data into one central repository that would facilitate easy access, management and analysis of the information regarding cyberthreats. The data included countries of concern, their most common type of crime and relevant legal measures for prevention of cybercrimes available in those countries. The team’s investigation focused attention on the severity of cybersecurity threats.

Edwards and Martineau brought different computer science skills to the table and teamed up to fully realize their strengths and overcome weaknesses. “The program motivated me to step up, get outside of my comfort zone and be a leader,” Martineau reflected.

“The experience as a whole was my favorite. I learned about a new culture, received a slight glimpse into the career I would like to be in, and visited a city that I have never been to,” said Edwards.

“The experience demonstrated the saying that ‘where there is a will, there is a way.’ My team realized what was at stake, we challenged ourselves, got on remarkably well as a team, divided the tasks equally and everyone delivered their assigned tasks in a timely manner. It was totally a ‘mission accomplished’ for us,” said Olatunbosun, indicating the team plans to publish its research.

The threesome returned to Norfolk State University, where Olatunbosun continued teaching and sought similar opportunities for the benefit of students. Edwards and Martineau continued to work toward the completion of their bachelor’s degrees.

The DHS SRT Program is funded by DHS and administered through the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE). ORISE is managed for DOE by Oak Ridge Associated Universities.