Why Kenyans should take cyber security seriously 0 1035

  • Cybersecurity can contribute immensely to the creation of quality employment opportunities for Kenyan citizens.
  • Kenya is yet to embrace any effective data protection regulations and the consequences are pretty evident in the Kenyan digital economy.
  • With the increased terrorist activities within Kenya, the Internet presents national enemies such as the Al-Shabaab and other extremist groups with a unique and ubiquitous opportunities.
Kenyan cyber security

There is no simple way to say this. Cybercriminals are pilfering Kenyans blind. The latter statement has been evidenced by the statistics present in the recent Cybersecurity Report published by Serianu, which asserts that Kenya lost about $175million last year. Moreover, the Report managed to establish that cybercrime perpetrators are deliberately targeting the Kenyan digital economy with the intention of wreaking havoc and making away with millions.

In terms of cyber resilience, the Kenyan digital economy can be likened to a slow, plump gazelle stumbling through the “cyber-savannah” in the full view of agile, informed and hungry cyber-predators who have begun to sink their teeth into their sumptuous prize.

Another daunting revelation is that organisations which have suffered substantial data breaches (which include reputable banks, insurance companies and SMEs) have decided to remain mum, much to the detriment of their clientele whose actual data is exploited for monetary gain by cybercriminals.

Regardless of the increased cybercrime incidents within the region, the state of Kenya’s digital economy is indeed on the rise.

Thanks to the concerted efforts of the private and public sector in creating an enabling environment, statistics published by the Communication Authority of Kenya in the first quarter of the 2016-2017 financial year highlight that the internet penetration rate in Kenya is at a robust 85%, with over 37 million internet subscribers who exchange data over various internet-based platforms.

These glowing statistics indicate the notable confidence in the quality of service provided by various digital companies. The latter can be attributed to the numerous marketing campaigns designed to reinforce consumer trust in digital services, but can Kenyans really trust good PR routines when it comes to the safety of their data?

The internet penetration rate in Kenya is at a robust 85%, with over 37 million internet subscribers Click to Tweet

What is in it for Kenyans if they begin to take their cyber security more seriously?

1. Jobs, Jobs and more Jobs:

Unemployment is a major challenge that affects youth across Kenya. Approximately 800,000 young Kenyans enter the labour market every year and youth unemployment is estimated to be as high as 35%, compared to the overall national unemployment rate of 10%.

Furthermore, 80% of unemployed Kenyans are below 35 years old. Notably, However, 70 per cent of the employed lot are under paid hence unable to take care of day-to-day needs. Thus, it can be demonstrated that unemployment will remain a thorn in the flesh until quality jobs can be created to further the development of the Kenyan populace.

Cybersecurity can contribute immensely to the creation of quality employment opportunities for Kenyan citizens.

Per the Kenya Cybersecurity Report, published by Serianu in 2016, the current number of internet subscribers stands at 37,716,579 users who are in turn served by only about 1400 certified cybersecurity professionals (these professionals are categorised as individuals who have attained CISA, CISM, GIAC, SANS, CISSP, CEH, ISO 27001 and PCI DSS QA certification).

Teddy Kungu, Country Manager of ESET East Africa has been famously quoted for stating that each cyber security professional in Kenya serves a population of at least 280000 citizens.

Per a 2003 study carried out by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu (DTT), it was recommended that ideally one information security professional should serve every 1000 general users.

Not only does it makes sense to fill the demand for cybersecurity specialists, it also makes a lot of cents.

Jobs in the field of cyber security are outpacing job creation in the IT industry and can pay up to $6,500 USD more annually, or almost 10% more, than the average salary of average IT workers.

While many job positions in cybersecurity will require additional certifications, such as the CISSP, it’s far from impossible to migrate into a security position from other IT focuses. For newcomers to the IT field, there is also room to start out on a cyber security career path beginning with an entry level role as a security analyst.

2. Tougher Protection Regulations will Protect Citizens

Kenya is yet to embrace any effective data protection regulations and the consequences are pretty evident in the Kenyan digital economy.

Institutions handling sensitive data, such as banks, insurance firms and hospitals have no legislative obligation to disclose any data breach incidents to their unsuspecting clients.

The latter has contributed significantly to the web of secrecy spun around the value and occurrence of cyber crime incidents within Kenya. Kenya needs to note that clandestine behaviour only favours cyber criminals who thrive in markets that suffer silently.

Notably, most cyber crime occurrences chiefly affect the constitutional rights of consumer protection and privacy, significantly injuring the citizens.

With the enforcement of the General Data Protection Regulations in Europe, which compel institutions to disclose data breaches which affect EU citizens and non-EU citizens alike within European data centres, cyber criminals may be forced to seek greener pastures to ply their trade.

Kenya is a prime target, with immense income potential but not much regulatory and technical might. Cyber crime will continue to escalate in our region if citizens remain indifferent and the Government continues to rest on its laurels when it comes to updating their policies regarding cyber security in Kenya.

3. Cyber-bulling among the Youth needs better safeguards

The dark nexus between education, young minds and inadequate safeguards against cyber aggression has led to truly tragic cases of cyber-bulling within the developed and developing world.

An apt definition of cyber-bulling was coined by the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention in South Africa which stated that cyber bullying, cyber violence, cyber aggression, internet bullying, electronic bullying, internet harassment or online harassment are terms used to refer to violence and aggression perpetrated through ICTs.

These cruel acts may include the sending of harassing emails or instant messages, posting obscene, insulting and slanderous messages on online bulletin boards or social networking sites, or developing web pages to promote and disseminate defamatory content.

The impact of cyber-bulling is particularly significant among girls.

Per a Report regarding cyber-violence against women and girls, published by The United Nations Broadband Commission for Digital Development Working Group on Broadband and Gender, about 73% of women and girls are abused online.

Kenyans need to act against these occurrences as it is in their best interest to protect the dignity of their women and children whilst enjoying digital services.

4. Children Need to be protected from Radicalisation and the Internet

With the increased terrorist activities within Kenya, the Internet presents national enemies such as the Al-Shabaab and other extremist groups with a unique and ubiquitous opportunity to access the susceptible young minds of our children to plant their vindictive perceptions of society.

Dr. Quintan Wiktorowicz, an internationally acclaimed expert on national security engagement and counter-terrorism produced a radicalization process model which highlights the initial need for a cognitive opening.

For the process of radicalization to achieve success, there must be an avenue to connect with a person who is receptive to the possibility of new ideas and world views. He highlights that insofar as the nexus between digital connectivity and radicalism is concerned, impressionability is vulnerability.

Impressionability is vulnerability. Dr. Quintan Wiktorowicz Click to Tweet

It is thus vital that whenever digital devices are availed to children safeguards should effectively be put in place. This should be widely adopted by Kenyan families through parents and legal guardians whose societal duty is to preserve the morality of their children.

Ignorance Injures Kenya’s socio-economic development

In one of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s landmark speeches, he famously stated that there existed three enemies to the Statehood of Kenya; the first was poverty, the second : disease and lastly: the plight of ignorance.

The ignorance of the impact of cybercrime within Kenya has already cost the nation millions of dollars and it threatens to exploit the data footprint of past, present and future generations. Kenyans must recognize the incentives of standing up for their data security and accept their role as guardians of their own information.

In order to enjoy safer technology, we must understand that security begins with you and me.

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Time to change your Twitter password 0 623

Twitter Password

An internal bug exposed the passwords of an undisclosed number of the more than 330 million Twitter users.

Twitter CTO Parag Agrawal announced that it was a “bug that stored passwords unmasked in an internal log”. He went on to state “we have fixed the bug and our investigation shows no indication of breach or misuse”.

The Social Media platform are insisting that there is no sign of danger and that there is no reason to believe that the passwords were exposed outside of the organisation. However, they are still advising users to change their Twitter passwords and those of any other online service using the same password.

Some additional password tips from Twitter include enabling two-factor authentication and also using a password manager to create a strong and unique password for every individual online service.

Approximately US $150,000 worth of Ethereum-based cryptocurrency stolen 0 700

Online cryptocurrency website MyEtherWallet.com has confirmed that some visitors could have been temporarily redirected to a phishing site designed to steal users’ credentials and – ultimately – empty their cryptocurrency wallets.

According to reports, whoever was behind the attack may have successfully stolen approximately US $152,000 worth of Ethereum-based cryptocurrency.

However,  MyEtherWallet may not have been at fault, as the website explained in its statement:

“This is not due to a lack of security on the [MyEtherWallet] platform. It is due to hackers finding vulnerabilities in public facing DNS servers.”

British security researcher Kevin Beaumont confirms in a blog post that some of MyEtherWallet’s traffic had been redirected to a server based in Russia after traffic intended for Amazon’s DNS resolvers was pointed to a server hosted in Chicago by Equinix.

For the scheme to succeed, someone pulled off a hijack of a crucial component of the internet known as Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), to reroute traffic intended for Amazon’s Route 53 DNS service to the server in Chicago. As a consequence, for some users, entering myetherwallet.com into their browser did not take them to the genuine site but instead to a server at an IP address chosen by the hackers.

The only obvious clue that a typical user might have spotted was that when they visited the fake MyEtherWallet site they would have seen an error message telling them that the site was using an untrustworthy SSL certificate.

It seems that the attackers made a mistake in not obtaining a valid SSL certificate.

Despite the error with their SSL certificate, the hackers haven’t done badly for themselves – both in this attack and in the past. Fascinatingly, the bogus MyEtherWallet website set up by the criminals was moving stolen cryptocurrency into a wallet which already contained some US $27 million worth of assets. Inevitably that raises questions of its own – have the hackers already made a substantial fortune through other attacks, or might their activities be supported by a nation state?

In a statement Equinix confirmed that a customer’s equipment at its Chicago data center was used in the hackers’ hijacking of Amazon’s Route 53 DNS service:

“The server used in this incident was not an Equinix server but rather customer equipment deployed at one of our Chicago IBX data centers… We generally do not have visibility or control over what our customers – or customers of our customers – do with their equipment.”

Amazon however, do not find the blame to lie on themselves, communicating the following statement:

“Neither AWS nor Amazon Route 53 were hacked or compromised. An upstream Internet Service Provider (ISP) was compromised by a malicious actor who then used that provider to announce a subset of Route 53 IP addresses to other networks with whom this ISP was peered. These peered networks, unaware of this issue, accepted these announcements and incorrectly directed a small percentage of traffic for a single customer’s domain to the malicious copy of that domain.”

Some advice from award winning security blogger, researcher and speaker, Graham Cluley – avoid putting your cryptocurrency wallet online, keep them off your smartphone or computer and perhaps instead invest in a hardware wallet.