Enhancing cybersecurity after broadband

July 27, 2009
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, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 27 – Against the excitement that has greeted Kenya’s corporate sector with the arrival of the fiber optic cable, information experts are now warning against a resultant vice that comes with increased bandwidth-Cybercrime.

Cybercrime entails all illegal and fraudulent activities committed on the Internet and are as varied as there are Internet users around the world. Globally, Cybercrime is estimated to cost firms up to $1 trillion (over Sh75 trillion).

Previously, Africa has not attracted this sort of crime, owing to slow Internet connectivity, which has been available only in selected urban centers. The impending increase in bandwidth is therefore poised to present ‘a perfect opportunity’ to hackers in Kenya and other African countries connected to the fiber, according to Muchemi Wambugu, Director of Technology Integration (TI) at Deloitte Eastern Africa Consulting.

Mr Wambugu says there is urgent need to create public awareness over this crime based on the dangers it poses to both business and general security in the country.

“People are excited about the fiber, but they are not aware about how much they are likely to lose electronically through cybercrime,” he says.

According to the TI Director, all business organisations connected to the Internet are vulnerable to this crime and should therefore take necessary measures to ensure that they are prepared adequately to deal with this imminent quandary.

A report on Cybersecurity, published by Deloitte in early May, noted that “cyber culture is growing faster than cybersecurity, so everything that depends on cyberspace is at risk. Private data, intellectual property, infrastructure and national security can be compromised by deliberate attacks, inadvertent security lapses and the inherent vulnerabilities of the internet.”

Fraudulent fund transfers

Banks and other financial institutions, Mr Wambugu says, are particularly vulnerable because fraudsters are most likely to perpetrate illegal fund transfers, as is the case in the West. This could cost the economy billions of shillings which may disappear to untraceable accounts. Using ‘phishing’ and other sprucing techniques, hackers may gain access to vital information that may be used at the expense of such institutions.

“Retail chains also may have their alternate financial programs interfered with,” adds Mr. Wambugu.

He says hackers may not be out to steal colossal sums of money but could aim at making small, unnoticeable sums which can translate into huge figures in the end, based on the number of clients an institution may have, in the case of commercial banks.

Of greater concern however is the likely loss of intellectual property, which is said to be the integral part of the economic growth of the country. Cybercrime presents a new challenge of safeguarding intellectual property and Mr Wambugu is quick to note that Kenya is truly unprepared in terms of curbing perpetration of this cyberspace crime. He says many brilliant ideas, locally generated, may end up in the hands of ‘other people’ who would eventually take advantage and use them to their own benefit, of course, at the expense of the original bearers.

Contrary to the popular belief, Mr Wambugu holds the opinion that “foreign companies are likely to benefit more on this cable, than locals for whom it is meant.” He predicts a scenario where the apathetic Kenyan culture of resents change coming in the way of integration and these, he says may greatly impede development of the ICT sector.

This, he adds, will also jeopardise the local industries over which businessmen from the West may take advantage. He advises: “We need to create awareness among the public that the fiber is not an end in itself but a means to create wealth. They need to develop products that will create wealth.”

Similarly, the TI director has advised the Kenyan public against holding to a culture of assumption in which case they bestow trust to other people who may not have godly intent.

He is now proposing the adoption of numerous cyber security measures most of which should be adopted by the corporate sector and the government, as well as individuals.

Among these measures are; a considered investment by both the government and other stakeholders in security solutions; enacting policies aimed at protecting consumers and hiring skilled personnel who would be charged with the task of performing constant checks and balances to ascertain security. In addition, training personnel on safe transactions is cited as imperative.

Meanwhile, Mr Wambugu has also advised against increased use of social Internet forums such as Facebook, Twitter and Tagged, on the premise of their insecure encryptions of data. He says the forums do not offer any secure transactions and are now posing serious threats to the users.

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