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Last Updated on 4 May 2021 by Gertrude

What is cybersecurity and why does it matter in Kenya?

The word Cybersecurity originates from the two words “cyber” and  “security“. To understand Cybersecurity, we need to look at the meaning of the two words.

Cyber means, anything relating to the Internet. Meaning anything digital like smartphones, laptops or any device that connects to the internet. 

An internet connection is made possible by Wi-Fi, Bluetooth setups or mobile data services. 

Security means safety or protection from harm, risks or threats.

Cybersecurity talks about everything that is concerned with protecting our personal information from theft or damage, by criminals.

 We put information on the internet but how secure is that information? 

The internet goes beyond search engines like Google, Yahoo or Bing. 

The internet means social media websites like Facebook, Instagram, blogs, online shopping stores like Amazon and payment systems like Paypal. 

We trust these sites with our passwords, ages, places of residence knowing the providers will guard our privacy so that our details don’t fall into the wrong hands. 

House owners will tell you they want their houses to have heavy steel doors/gates, security guards, guard dogs to keep away predators. It’s the same with cybersecurity. 

So, the simplest definition of cybersecurity is ‘protection’. Protection of smartphones, pcs, laptops, system networks, data from malicious attacks

Malicious attacks include malware. Malware is software designed to corrupt, redesign or damage information in order to gain access.

 A malware attack prevents access to your information and causes damage to your flow of information or devices.

 Malware attacks cost millions of shillings, loss of information and a lack of privacy to information. 

Cybersecurity is important for business owners to keep their peace of mind – have their data and information not leaked.   

The Information Age changed our lives because of the internet. 

 Information gets passed from one person to the other, across the world with a single click. 

The internet brought changes no one saw coming. For example, the invention of smartphones. 

With smartphones, a handheld device, you can use as your computer/pc/laptop, you can take pictures and go anywhere with it. 

Then with the same device, you can connect with friends and family from anywhere in the world. 

The world became smaller, accessible and global.

We became ‘’slaves’’ to the internet where we rely on it for shopping, accessing news or simply connecting with favourite celebrities or catching up on shows we wouldn’t have access to.

 The internet and the inventions that followed smartphones seem and seemed great until our information got hijacked.

 So, cybersecurity got born.

 How can we access our information privately away from prying thieving eyes? 

Would you feel secure when you find an intruder enjoying a cup of coffee without your invitation in your house? 

We want to make sure that the information we put on the Internet is safe and secure from potential harm. 

The growing incidences of hackers accessing information through unauthorised ways, the recent case, the hacking of Facebook’s over 500 million and Mark Zuckerberg’s accounts. 

The government and business corporations need Cybersecurity to protect sensitive data from unauthorised access. 

Terms and Terminologies Used in Cybersecurity

 

  • Cyber risk

Cyber risk is exposure to harm or loss resulting from attacks on Information Systems. 

  • Cyber threat

Cyber threat aims at damaging and stealing data.

  • Cyberattack

This is an attempt to gain unauthorized access to a computer, computer systems or network with the intent to cause damage. 

  • Cybercrime

This is the use of computers as an instrument to carry out illegal activities. 

  • Cyberspace

This is the environment in which communication over the Internet occurs.

  • Cyberbullying

This is when a person uses the Internet as a means to post or share false and harmful information about someone else in order to cause damage to their character. Cyberbullies target internet personalities, entrepreneurs, politicians and anyone on the internet.

  • Malware

This is software that is designed to destroy or gain unauthorized access to a computer system.

  • Identity Theft 

Using fraud or deception to obtain sensitive data/information from a person. Identity theft is called impersonation. 

How Does CyberSecurity Work?

 

Cybersecurity is a new concept in Kenya so business owners believe it isn’t something to invest in.

Cybersecurity costs millions of shillings to incorporate in a new or old business and business owners would rather give it up.

 Maintenance of systems is an ongoing cost that business owners and individuals like to avoid.  

Cybersecurity doesn’t have to be complicated. 

Start by having passwords. A lot of websites, help you create complicated passwords basic hackers and hacking programmes/robots find complicated. 

For example, mix characters, upper and lower case characters, use numbers and special characters and avoid using your birthdates or names when creating your passwords. 

Be alert when using the internet. That means, not visiting sites you don’t trust. 

For example, if you are an avid blog reader like me, I read hundreds of blogs a day consciously or unconsciously, don’t visit sites without the SSL padlock/mark of trust or safety. 

If shopping online, avoid shopping on sites without the SSL mark on their site. 

And don’t share your card information or personal details or save your personal information when using the internet from a cybercafe or someone’s else wifi.

 Also, avoid using public WiFis which aren’t password-protected and hackers use them to steal users information. 

When you suspect your information is hacked, delete or block all passwords and begin anew.

If you work online, as I do, avoid visiting porn sites and keep changing your passwords. 

Stay away from sites that encourage you to click on the download button to find out more, especially if you don’t know the website. 

Most of the links contain malicious codes that disrupt your information flow. 

Beware of links telling you to click to make money online, there’s nothing like that that exists on the internet. 

No one gives free money to anyone and you shouldn’t look for ways to make money without working. 

If you own a business online, ensure your business data is password protected and if you have the budget, hire a cybersecurity expert to help you know what to protect.

 If you hire a cybersecurity expert, they will explain to you how to identify cyber-attacks, detect, respond to threats and offer a guideline on recovering from the attacks.

The technology used in protecting your business must be up to date. An updated cybersecurity system stays current with the evolving cybercrimes.

 Using firewall software, antivirus software (that is recognizable), a secure router and other reliable security solutions is a must.

Cybersecurity ensures the data/information we share on the internet is confidential, accurate, consistent, complete and accessible.

 A deviation from this normal (where our information is safe, accurate and accessible), means a broken system and must get addressed asap.

Technical encryptions are put in place to ensure data quality is as expected. 

Simple Cybersecurity Rules Business Owners Must Abide By


To ensure the safety of your information on the internet, there are some simple cybersecurity rules business owners must follow. And the rules include:  

  • Creating a password

A password is a set of word(s) used to gain permission to access information. 

The password you settle on should be strong. Avoid using names. Instead, you can use a set of letters, numbers and symbols to create your strong password. 

 If you do not know how to create a suitable password; use password managers like Roboform, Sticky Password, Firefox Password manager and Dashlane. These passwords managers/services are free or affordable.  

Make sure your password is private and known to you. 

  • Have a security software

This is software that is designed to protect information and computer systems.

 You need to install reliable antivirus software in your computer system. Always make updates.  

Popular antivirus software includes Kaspersky, Norton, Avast, Defender

  • Have a reliable browser 

Suitable browsers/search engines include Google Chrome, Bing, Yahoo, Safari, Firefox.

The browsers/search engines need updates – follow your computer/pc/ browser guidelines and click on update when the search engine/browser recommends.  

  • Avoid suspicious sites 

Don’t visit sites you aren’t aware of like following links on blogs you don’t know. 

If you are a regular porn visitor, don’t click links taking you to other sites.

Don’t download books, movies instead buy them from trusted websites. 

Stop clicking on links telling you, click here to make $100/10k today sitting at home. There’s nothing like this on the internet. 

That’s a hacker’s way of stealing your information, buyer beware. Such sites contain malware/virus that gets transferred to your computer/device. 

  • Avoid sharing your information on sites. For example, on YouTube when asked by a user for my email address, I write or use all caps in case it’s a robot. 

And don’t share your birthdates/months of birth anywhere on the internet. It’s easier to hack your system when using your month of birth. 

  • Keep track of your activities 

Do a regular follow-up on your online activities.

 Check your system in case you suspect an attack, ask, what site did I visit and when? What did I do on the site?

 Was there a pop-up link that appeared while on the site? 

Take note of your online activities so as to know what malware bit. 

Keeping track of your activities online help you avoid sites like pornographic, link clicking or suspected blogs. 

NOTE: If you’re a YouTuber, delete all comments that don’t make sense; those are spam comments. 

And if you’re a blogger, before approving any comment, check whether it relates to your content. I delete any comment stating the obvious, ”good blog post, I came across this when reading about marketing …” . 

Why is Cybersecurity Crucial in Kenya

Why do we need Cybersecurity? Can we survive without Cybersecurity? 

Simple answer, no.

 We need Cybersecurity to minimise computer crimes. 

We say minimise because we cannot erode internet crimes as they change. 

The main purpose of Cybersecurity is to protect information and computer from cyberattacks. These are sub categorised as follows:

  • Cybersecurity is important to an individual as it protects your personal information from being leaked out to the public. 

Cyberbullies love ‘’secret’’ information and what a better way to paralyse you by taking your privacy into public display?

Only Kim Kardashian knew how to use bullying to her benefit. But, teens haven’t succeeded to quell rumours about them.

 Can you imagine having a relationship that leads to sex? 

Then when you check the school’s noticeboard the following day, your sexscapade is on display for everyone? 

Across the hall, the gawking eyes make you feel like hiding in the moon? Cybersecurity helps us keep our information from such prying eyes.

 Or can you imagine all the information about your business and its operations going public? 

  • Cybersecurity safeguards the computer systems from viruses and malware likely to pose a cyber risk. 

  • The government relies on Cybersecurity to protect intellectual property and which may be dangerous if they fall in the wrong hands. 
  • Cybersecurity is important to the government in order to help monitor and prevent digital spying which may be a threat to National Security. 

This will stop sensitive information from being leaked out to the public, or information landing into the wrong hands, for example, terrorists. 

Or the selling of the state’s security and the operation to other countries. 

Which can lead to the leaking of secrets like who is Kenya’s enemies or what the government intends on doing to Somalia. Remember, WikiLeaks? 

  • Corporations need Cybersecurity to ensure there is no breach of financial data and records.

Access to a company’s financial data by a hacker can lead to loss of investments, for example, extortion, kidnappings or even death.

Imagine stealing Safaricom’s data or KCB bank group’s financial information?

Heads of corporations also want to keep their health information private.

Can you imagine a system where we get told that the C.E.O of a certain multinational has HIV or is dying soonest? Cybersecurity helps keep the health information of individuals private. 

  • Cybersecurity is needed by citizens to protect our information. Imagine the devastation of KRA accessing your financial status. Can you imagine government agencies freely accessing your day to day activities yet you’re not a criminal? 

  • Cybersecurity helps businesses and the government to keep confidential data without hacking worries as the information is secure. 

Challenges Facing Cybersecurity in Kenya  

While effort is in place to ensure Cybersecurity, there some challenges that Cybersecurity faces in Kenya. And the challenges include: 

Cybercrimes keep getting sophisticated and complicated

For example, the recent hacking of Facebook proves cybercrime and criminals keep getting smarter.  

You’d expect the head of a leading social media company is free from attacks because he knows the dangers of impersonation he faces daily.

Cybercriminals get their ways around the most secured encryptions/firewalls. 

Most cybercriminals are trained workers or disgruntled employees teaching their former employers a lesson. Because they know a way around the firewalls/encryptions the company has in place.

It’s expensive and time-consuming to keep up with the complex systems of a cybercriminal. 

The reason why Mark Zuckerberg spent $25/2.5 billion shillings to ensure his data is kept safe. 

Cybersecurity is a challenge in Kenya because we’re ignorant

We don’t care. We believe a password or lack of one doesn’t affect us because we ‘have nothing to protect’. 

A true case for anyone accessing information online like news or reading blogs or looking for ideas and feel like cybersecurity is a waste of time. 

Cybersecurity is left for the ‘tech gurus’.

 We don’t want to spend copious amounts of time deciphering code when we aren’t tech gurus, guilty. 

We want straight forward info. We think cybersecurity is for those that deal with computers every day and it is none of our concern. 

There aren’t schools teaching cybersecurity. 

Technology isn’t taught in many top universities in Kenya. 

Look around, some Kenyans don’t own an internet gadget or if they do, it’s for sending and receiving money. 

We’re not digital as we believe. 

Who cares about cybersecurity? 

That is the notion of the majority of small business owners. 

They will tell you that there aren’t Safaricom to bother with such complications. 

Cybercrimes isn’t sophisticated in Kenya so we underplay its damage where we take action when we get hacked.  

In conclusion, we must learn and be open to protecting our information. No one wants their lives aired in public.  

The world is a digital connection/ a ‘village‘.

And the more ‘’village’’ we get, the higher the risks of cyberattacks. 

Cybersecurity must be taught from the first purchase of a smartphone at telephone marketplaces or telecommunication companies like Safaricom.

 Customers need to be aware of the risk of purchasing a smartphone or having their information leaked to dangerous individuals. 

We need to emphasise the importance of protecting information shared on social media sites or on shopping sites. 

When reading websites, don’t visit any website with a ‘’red warning cross’’.

 Ensure the blog is SSL trusted site (padlock on-site). 

Read trusted information from trusted blogs.

 Stop rushing into websites telling you to ‘click the link’ to earn money. 

No one earns money from clicking links unless it’s a legit gig. 

Cybersecurity/online safety starts with you.

 As more people gain access to the internet, so do cybercriminals finding ways to fleece you of your hard-earned cash. 

Don’t take calls from people telling you they are Safaricom and you’re a winner. 

Stop sending cash to people you don’t know in order to ‘win’ a prize. 

These people get information from your social media. 

So, when signing up for Facebook or Instagram, don’t use your real ages or birth months and dates. 

Cybercriminals can guess your ages and months with a click of a button. 

Cybercriminals become complicated each day, month and year, and so must we.

The longer we stay next to our smartphones, tablets, the more cybersecurity lasts and must be a part of our safe access to the internet.  

What cybersecurity measure do you use as a Kenyan business owner or a Kenyan working online or studying online?

Do you believe we need to tighten our internet security? 

Does Kenya need a school dedicated to teaching on the importance of cybersecurity?


stephanie

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