Data Security: Safeguarding your Business Network from Cyber Crime

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We are living in an increasingly connected world where technology and internet plays significant roles in our everyday activities.

Kenya especially, has leaped in bounds in all matters technology. The things we do, the gadgets we touch, the services we receive and the lifestyle we dwell in have aspects of technology that can no longer be ignored.

This includes banking, home appliances, mobile phones, entertainment gadgets, wearables and basic government procurement services. The country has also employed considerable technology in conducting its elections!

Ideally, the importance of technology in our present-day existence and in future cannot be gainsaid.

These gains have seen institutions and corporates align their businesses to be techno-savvy, so as to cater for their clients with an increasing appetite for technology-based services and products.

Unfortunately, the expanding cyberspace we are experiencing is also a ripe recipe for various forms of cyber-attacks.

In years past, these types of crimes were few and far apart. Cyber threats have since matured, morphing into well-oiled syndicates with the potential to wreck devastating damages to institutions in terms of reputation, operations, finances and general data breaches.

Hackers are also having insatiable fetish for small businesses (SMEs) as they are often unprepared for attacks. Due to their small size of their businesses, SMEs tend to falsely believe that they are encapsulated from attacks due to their small nature.

Unbeknownst to them, their innovative nature and growing customer acquisition makes them attractive prey to hackers. Unknowingly, some of them may actually offer that gateway to attack multinationals as they are often subcontracted to offer services to the big Corporations. In short, no one is immune to cyber-attacks.

Before, cybersecurity threats were limited to phishing, user access, and some aspects of data manipulation. The threats are now graver and injurious. They include breach of privacy and security of personally identifiable information, stealing an organization’s intellectual property, confiscating online bank accounts, creating and distributing viruses on computers, posting confidential business information on the Internet, with the potential for disrupting a country’s critical national infrastructure.

In a survey conducted by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics and the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA), Kenya lost about Sh18 billion ($175 million) to cybercrime in 2016. With these disturbing statistics, one would expect organizations (whether multinationals or startups) to identify cybersecurity as priority for business growth.

In a 2017 cyber risk report by Aon Risk Solutions and Ponemon Institute, even as 64% of companies believe exposure to cyber risk will increase over the next two years, only 29 percent of them are fully aware of the consequences that could result from a data breach or security exploit in other countries in which their company operates and 20 percent say they are not aware of the consequences.

Such cavalier attitude towards cybersecurity threats is disheartening. It is time institutions and government bodies collaborated to remedy these threats and putting necessary measures that will protect the cyber ecosystem.

Firms must start to think before they become beneficiaries of ‘cybergeddon’. The decision makers and board members should take an active role in curbing cyber threats– not just by few tech hirelings who may be overwhelmed by these occurrences. The government must protect its people from cyber-crime to an increasing usage of smartphones and apps. Presently the Computer and Cyber-crime bill 2016, a legislative framework that will seal loopholes used by cyber fraudsters to perpetrate offences in the country, is awaiting debate and enactment by the parliament.

To manage these risks, companies should put in place strategies and plans to deal with hacks or attacks. Periodically, it is advisable to carry out independent audits in order to ascertain vulnerabilities and patch up systems.

To better manage and achieve this, firms are advised to partner with legitimate cyber security providers to safeguard their clients’ data.

These providers are equipped with sufficient manpower to manage threats, offer impregnable firewall and web security, and enable secure email system. Kenya remains a powerhouse for technology innovation and growth in the continent.

As our daily transactions and activities become seamless, and as our online presence continue to expand, the need for cyber sage becomes evident. In an age where data is becoming more portable, and where critical data is at risk from viruses, hackers, malicious employees and accidental damage, systems need to be put in place in case of such eventualities.

Mr. Shimanyula is the General Manager of SimbaNET Kenya.

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