SA businesses ill-prepared to deal with cyber crime

Read time 3min 10sec
Byron Clatterbuck, CEO at Seacom.
Byron Clatterbuck, CEO at Seacom.

Businesses the world over are jumping on the digital transformation bandwagon.

SA is no different, says Byron Clatterbuck, CEO at Seacom. He cites a Microsoft study, which found that 48% of local organisations have already begun the digital transformation journey, aided largely by cloud computing and related products and services.

However, in this increasingly interconnected landscape, the risks of cyber crime are rising too, and local businesses are woefully ill-prepared, according to Clatterbuck.

New devices, new vulnerabilities

A slew of data breaches in SA that have littered the headlines over the last few years have highlighted this problem, he says.

Each year, attacks grow in size, severity and cost to mitigate, he says. To complicate the issue, new technologies and devices mean new vulnerabilities and rapidly shifting goal-posts for those charged with securing the organisation.

There's only so much a service provider can do to protect a business... it is up to each individual business owner to make sure that every weak link is strengthened.

Byron Clatterbuck, CEO at Seacom.

"Realistically, there's only so much a service provider can do to protect a business. It is internal policies and the practices enforced on a daily basis in the workplace that offer the highest level of defence, and so it is up to each individual business owner to make sure every weak link is strengthened.

"In this endeavour, four key areas must be secured to minimise the risks and maximise the rewards of digital business transformation," says Clatterbuck.

Four key areas to secure

1. People

Irrespective of the firewalls a business has in place, human error is too often to blame for a breach. "There is no technology that can take the place of simple training and education, and these must be the basis of any solid cyber security strategy."

He says common threats such as phishing, malware and others are usually spread via e-mail, and educating employees about simple best-practices regarding suspicious links or attachments in e-mails is the best way to stay safe.

2. Endpoints

"In the age of the cloud, and with more and more businesses embracing the advantages of remote workplace policies, every device that enters and exits the business's premises, and makes use of its network, is a potential entry point for would-be attackers," says Clatterbuck.

"Securing every endpoint, from smartphones to tablets and laptops, should be a key priority in keeping sensitive business information protected."

3. Internet connection

With the Internet being the lifeline of any digitally enabled business, Clatterbuck says it is astounding that so many organisations fail to secure their Internet connection.

"A strong password policy, a fool-proof firewall, configuring office WiFi for separate public and private access, and even reconsidering the physical placement of routers can all help secure the connection."

4. Backups

Finally, he says, backups are essential. Although viewed as a grudge purchase, once the safety of their data has been compromised, most businesses appreciate the importance of backing up their data.

He says few businesses can afford the delays caused by the loss of customer invoices, purchase orders and payroll records, never mind the stiff penalties faced if the business is found to have fallen foul of regulations such as POPIA and GDPR.

"We are all familiar with the saying that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Cloud-based, security-minded packages are often the best way to ensure that the entire chain is of consistent quality, with each link built-for-purpose, and a single entity responsible for its performance," he concludes.

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