Our world is as connected now as it has ever been — businesses, hospitals and even government buildings are networked. This can be a fantastic tool to improve and speed up communication, but it also creates a unique new threat that cannot be ignored — the threat of cyberattack.
Most countries in the developed world have some form of office or authority that focuses on defending against cyberattacks and bolstering cybersecurity, one part of the world is still lagging behind. Africa has yet to set up a cybersecurity authority, and it’s costing the continent billions of dollars every year.
The Cost of Cyberattacks
We all laugh at the idea of the Nigerian prince email phishing scams now, but in Nigeria itself, cybercrime-related incidents are costing the government nearly half a billion dollars every year. Other countries are facing the same sort of problem — Uganda reports upwards of $50 million in cybercrime-related losses, and Kenya reports more than $250 million per year.
In spite of this massive price tag, most African countries don’t have any sort of response plan for dealing with cybercrime, or for bolstering their businesses’ security to prevent these problems from happening. More than 62 percent of the countries in Africa don’t have any plan in place to respond to a cyberattack.
Largely because none of them have experienced a direct cyberattack yet, so rather than preparing and learning what they would need to do in the event of an attack, they regard it as an abstract concept that doesn’t really require preparation.
Protecting Yourself From Cyberattacks
If a truly dedicated hacker — or a lucky one — wants to get into your system, they will. Just look at some of the biggest hacks that happened during the past year — Ransomware crippled the National Health Service computer systems in the U.K., and IoT (internet of things) networked devices were used to launch the biggest DDoS attack in history. That’s all just in 2017.
The key here isn’t to respond to these attacks as they occur — it’s to take all the necessary steps to protect yourself and your business from cybercrime before it becomes an issue. One of the biggest vulnerabilities any company experiences comes in the form of its employees — not because they employees themselves are malicious, but because they make simple mistakes.
Instruct your employees about the basics of cybersecurity — it can be as simple as not downloading unsolicited attachments and teaching them how to recognize a phishing email, or one that is designed to steal login information.
Keeping your computers and antimalware software up to date is also essential. The ransomware hack experienced by the NHS was able to spread so quickly because most of the infected hospitals were using an older version of a common operating system that was no longer being updated — and contained a security flaw the hackers were able to exploit.
Cybersecurity is no longer optional — it is just as important as your employees or your payroll software. Many of the steps you can take to protect yourself from cybercrime are common sense, like not opening unsolicited attachments and being aware of phishing email scams. Most developed countries are prepared in case of a cyberattack, but others — like those in Africa — still need to take steps to ensure both their safety and the safety of the networked world as a whole.
Byline: Nathan Sykes is a technology and business blogger at Finding an Outlet.