Cyber-security is not a ‘nice-to have’
Namibia seems a safe and secure haven; we go about our business and relish the idea of telling foreigners about our beautiful country in Southern Africa, assuming that almost no one has ever heard of it. However, there’s a group that has definitely heard of us as a nation and they are cyber criminals.
We seem to be so welcoming to cyber criminals that we top the list of countries in Africa most targeted by cyber criminals. This is hugely worrying and even dangerous. According to Check Point, an internationally renowned provider of ICT infrastructure and IT-security, Namibia is number one in being targeted by cyber criminals that want to exploit ICT infrastructure weaknesses.
Cyber criminals will try to target as many networks as possible and as soon as they find vulnerabilities they start to exploit them for financial gain, often wreaking havoc in the process. This can range from blackmailing, to stealing company secrets, ransomware attacks, releasing viruses or Trojan horses, hacking accounts or other forms of compromising people, leading them to feel they have no choice but to pay a ransom. One of the newer forms this has taken is known as ‘Business Email Compromise’ or ‘sextortion’ to give it its more common name.
This form of extortion works by tricking victims into making a payment as a result of possibly compromising material the blackmailer may or may not have. The person to be blackmailed is led to believe there’s potentially embarrassing information which the blackmailer has acquired through hacking their data. The only way in which they can stop this from being released to the general public is by paying.
The release of this information is almost never done and usually they just try to fool the person into believing they have the info. People are so frightened of any material being released that they simply pay up. The less secure a network, the easier it is for cyber criminals to exploit.
Due to our lack of robust cyber security, whilst other more advanced countries know the risks and constantly beef up their security to stay ahead of the cyber criminals, Namibia has become the focal point for these criminals.
Companies are required by law to have robust safety features like firewalls, anti-virus software and back-ups in place, this requirement needs to be enforced rigorously. It is essential that Namibians both as private citizens and as companies step up their cyber security game. This is not a list we want to be at the top of.
Most companies and organisations believe they are on top of things. However, as this list demonstrates we clearly aren’t. An organisation and its security, especially online is only as strong as its weakest link. Companies need to take their responsibility seriously when it comes to their ICT environment in the broadest terms. This includes mobile applications and devices, as well as third party access, the applications, networks and computer systems.
It is clear we need to step up our cyber-security game as a nation and strengthen our cyber defences. If we are to be attractive as a business destination, both our public, and private ICT security needs to be on point. Cyber-security can never be an afterthought and is not a ‘nice-to have’.
Johann van Rooyen