Make your online safety and hygiene a priority

We live in a world of smart objects: from fitness bands to track our exercise or eating habits, applications to control temperature within our homes, sensors to alert us for different use cases within the environments we operate, applications and connected devices linking billions of people to knowledge and opportunities and bringing a tremendous level of convenience and efficiency to our busy lives. 

However, like any other good thing, these transformations have not been without risks, such as those presented by cyber-threats. As Kenyans put more and more of their information online, they become increasingly exposed and attractive targets for cyber threat actors.

A cyber threat is an activity that takes place in the online space and has the potential to compromise the confidentiality, availability and integrity of information systems. 

Cyber threat actors are individuals or organisations, with different skill sets, capabilities and motivations ranging from financial fraud, religion to just causing havoc. They aim to take advantage of systems loopholes, low cyber-security awareness, and technological advancements to gain unauthorised access to information systems to access or otherwise affect victims’ data, devices, systems and networks. 

As an individual, you are a potential victim of cyber-attack, fraud and extortion attempts from cyber-criminals. Cyber threat actors can leverage on publicly available cyber tools and social engineering to extort money or information from individuals and businesses. Some of the most commonly used tools include adware, denial of service, password cracking, pharming, ransomware, phishing and malware. 

Being in a position to understand how cyber-attacks are perpetrated is the first measure to protect yourself from exposure. Just like people lock their doors to protect their valuable possessions, you must ensure you secure yourselves online in order to keep your sensitive personal information safe from cyber threats. 

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Besides, just like we engage in certain personal hygiene practices to maintain good health and well-being, Kenyans must as well inculcate cyber hygiene cultures which more or less relate to basic practices and precautions that users should take in order to keep their sensitive data safe and secure:

Always lock your computer and mobile devices when not in use and ensure you have a password or PIN to protect them; Always create complex passwords that include a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols where possible; Always protect your sensitive information: details about your social media and email accounts, related passwords and PINs and any other personal information like M-Pesa transactions, banking and credit card, health data, addresses and location information should never be shared with unauthorised individuals; Think before you click or respond and do not open or respond to emails, SMSs, links, or attachments from suspicious or unverified sources.

Think before you connect -- be sure to confirm the legitimacy of any public wireless hot-spot like in an airport, hotel, train, bus station or café before you connect. And if you really must, don’t conduct sensitive activities such as online shopping or banking, using an unsecured connection; Install security software such as anti-virus to assist proactively protect you from threats to your computer or smartphones; Store your data securely and know your restore procedures. Keep backups of your essential data offline to ensure you have extra copies to restore from, and; Enforce safe browsing for your children to protect your kids from online cyber- bullying by ensuring you have in place a software that can limit your children’s access to inappropriate sites and content

This year’s National Cyber Security Awareness Month emphasises personal accountability and stresses the importance of taking proactive measures to enhance cyber-security both at home and at the workplace.

Every Kenyan must play his part to keep the internet safe. When we all take simple steps to be safer online, it makes using the internet a more secure experience for everyone. 
 

 - The writer is the Chief Corporate Security Officer at Safaricom PLC.

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