• Info@aganoconsulting.com
  • Call Us: +254 (20) 267-0743

Kenya: A Rough Ride towards a Knowledge Economy

Jan 26 2015

click here for a pdf version of this article.

 

On January 17th, 2012 Kenyans woke up to news of desecration of a number of government websites. A hacker has taken liberty to expose the weaknesses in the security of government systems, reportedly after a short tutorial. The hacker, coming from Indonesia, later even thanked Kenyan technical news sources for effectively covering the story of the hack!

 

 

Soon the blogosphere was aflame  with concerned, animated Kenyans and friends of Kenya as to how this would happen. They seemed even angrier considering the very basic nature of flaws that led to the security breaches. It is as if an untrained mechanic has been used to overhaul a car engine only for the engine to be fouled by the most amateur of mechanics.

 

This needs to be a wakeup call to all Kenyans, and especially those in leadership, to put in place solid processes, people and technology in defense of the motherland.

 

Kenya, the nation of M-PESA and other upcoming innovations, has taken major strides into the information age. Today, the country is perhaps one of the best wired on the African continent, what with a number of submarine cables that have docked on the Kenyan coast recently These, in turn, have availed cheap bandwidth and high-speed access both into and outside the country. There is a growing tech-savvy young generation perhaps best epitomized by growth of use of social media such as facebook and twitter. Even the Kenya Defense Forces communications realizes the power of such media and has made it an outlet for updates of such things as the war in Somalia!

 

The government on the other hand has led an onslaught on Internet providers to avail bandwidth at affordable prices. This would lower entry barriers and allow for equitable access by mwananchi who would reap attendant benefits.

 

These benefits are many and varied, including electronic commerce (e.g. being able to transact on the Internet), and government and private sector service delivery among others. Properly harnessed, connectivity can spur productivity, enhance effectiveness and generate economic growth. It is noteworthy that the Ministry of Information and Communications has targeted a 10% contribution to the country’s Gross National Product (GDP). .

 

 

At the launch of the first sub-marine cable Kenya lit cyberspace with substantial malicious activity as noted by leading security product company Symantec. It was akin to shining light into the darkest corner in a house where nobody had cared to clean!

 

In many respects, lack of high speed Internet connectivity had left the country as a safe haven where we could deploy systems without worrying whether they were secured or not. System owners didn’t have to incur added costs of security because of low risk of being hacked as the systems were largely out of reach for many a hacker on the Internet.

 

High speed Internet changed all this for, suddenly, a computer deployed in Nairobi can easily and quickly be reached by someone with high speed connectivity anywhere in the world. High speed Internet also means we can run more complex applications faster than we could do before such bandwidth came.

 

We need to realize that our commendable foray into the superhighway, presents its own risks that we appear not to be prepared for. These perils include the potential for unauthorized people to steal, alter or make unreachable information on computers that are not properly secured.

 

Stolen sensitive information can cause harm to the nation, business and individuals. Further risks include embarrassment in the face of the world and loss of reputation. It will not be a coincidence if, with the spread of the story on the Internet, we hear more of the same in subsequent copycat acts.

 

More risks are associated with fixing any security violations and damage caused by hackers.

 

When systems are hacked, the extent of loss can be immense not simply to companies or governments but also to countries and its nationals.

 

 

With the end of the cold war, cyberspace has become the new frontier for combat. Thus, we hear of information warfare between perceived adversaries intended for various objectives, including espionage, embarrassing target enemies and a means of staying ahead of the opponent.

 

The new cyber frontier has made industrial espionage easier than it was before. Why travel to distant countries seeking information from rival companies when one can “hit” several countries from a single location, targeting intended victims with a lapse in cyber defences? All one needs is some expect knowledge, exploit code and a gap in security on target systems.

 

In national warfare, we can take a contemporary example from our country’s foray into Somalia in search of Al Shabaab terrorists. The country is at war! And these would do anything to hurt the country and her people. They already bombed public places in Kenya, causing major damage, including taking lives.

 

Just imagine the Al Shabaab getting hold of information about our armed forces’ movements and attack plans! Picture further were the group able to alter the information and what subsequent confusion would ensue to well-laid out plans! And suppose further that they able to jam information access to make it impossible to communicate!

 

There is more!

 

Imagine through cyber violations they were able to track (say) the path of key security and government personnel, even the country’s leadership.

 

In the private sector, Kenyan banks have seen escalating losses lately. They suspect these are associated with increased use of technology. It is possible that some of these losses could be due to Internet-related security violations due hackers, be they in or outside Kenya.

 

 

All countries take seriously the risks associated with information protection. And they do so for many good reasons, including warding off information warfare and protecting the national economy.

 

On the economic front thinkers suggest that future economic competitiveness will be determined by how well countries use knowledge for advantage. Those that fully exploit knowledge, taking full advantage of the same, would have a competitive edge.

 

Knowledge is a creation from information which in turn is generated from data. It means that those that faithfully collect data, use methodical approaches to generate information and knowledge out of the date will stay ahead.

 

Therefore it is important that that information be accurate and authentic, that it be accessible to only those that need it and be available when required. Inaccurate data would generate false information and hence lead to misplaced decisions. Stolen information can give a competitor an edge.

 

Information protection remains a challenge to all countries, including developed ones. As one blogger mentioned, even some of the best protected systems like those of the US Department of Defence have been violated on more than one occasion. It is also conventional knowledge that most violations are never reported hence what we learn of may be a tip of the iceberg in cyber violations.

 

It is also true that no system can be 100% secure. An analogy is that of a house whose doors must be open to its residents for the house to be useful. Yet the same doors provide a vulnerability that could be exploited by burglars.

 

 

These facts should not deter action on information protection. The fact that others (and especially advanced countries) are also violated remains cold comfort for Kenya when it faces the embarrassment and potential negative impact from the desecrations of the kind reported in the press.

 

The practice of information protection has substantially matured. All the country and its private sector need is to take the matter seriously. Indeed, the country is lucky that it can learn from the mistakes of others whose experiences now form the body of knowledge for best practices.

 

At the very least an entity (a company or government) must establish what needs to be protected based on some security policy. The policy sets out governance and associated accountabilities in realizing security of the information. As well the entity must employ some best practice standards applicable to the practice of information protection and implement clear guidelines that realize the security of the information.

 

All people working for the entity must be trained to understand their roles in ensuring security of information. This starts with leadership, followed by everyone else. The required training must be commensurate with the roles of the people. It follows that technical people that install and maintain systems must have deep technical knowledge of security of the systems.

 

Like any live systems and processes, system s must be continually audited and any exposures fixed in a timely manner. Indeed, there must be ongoing monitoring for security violations (regardless of their magnitude and impact) and with necessary appropriate response. Incident management processes must be part of the security DNA of any enterprise.

 

For systems of interest to the public, a communication plan is always necessary. It is important that entities (be they public or private) continually keep stakeholders informed of breaches and assure the stakeholders that things are under control.

 

 

All this will not happen in a vacuum and required leadership. Today, our government has no designate information protection czar. Few companies have established the role of chief information security officer.

 

This leader would be a person with mandate for protection of an entity’s (government or private company) information assets. This leader would ensure there is a framework that assures the protection of information, with proper processes, and trained people assigned appropriate responsibilities; the right people in the right place.

 

 

The Internet presents opportunities for government and private sector in Kenya. The country landed cables even as it was not prepared for consequences of such connectivity. For instance, no information protection framework was in place. Information protection leadership is yet to be established, which leaves a situation where we have technical and non-technical players in the Internet space that are not prepared. It is akin to sending an untrained person to drive on the super highway, oblivious of rules of the road.

 

It isn’t too late but the urgency of the matter suggests prompt action.

 

© 2012 Matunda Nyanchama

Dr Nyanchama is an information security professional, he is the director and principal consultants at Agano Consulting Inc with offices in Canada and Kenya. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Check the 2012 Information Risk Management Course Schedule for 2012.

Read 46734 times
Rate this item
(0 votes)

114 comments

  • Kam
    Kam Tuesday, 15 March 2016 09:45 Comment Link

    I\'m uncertain where you might be having your information, but good topic.
    I should take some time learning more or understanding more.
    Thank you for fantastic information I needed
    this information for my mission.

  • Grover
    Grover Tuesday, 15 March 2016 02:33 Comment Link

    Great blog here! Also your internet site loads up extremely fast!
    What host are you using? Can One get the affiliate link
    to your host? If only my site loaded up as quickly as yours lol

  • asmexqypm0g
    asmexqypm0g Sunday, 13 March 2016 19:09 Comment Link

    [url=http://viagrasoft.webcam/]chewable viagra soft tabs[/url]

  • Cyril
    Cyril Saturday, 12 March 2016 08:18 Comment Link

    whoah this weblog is fantastic i love reading your articles.
    Keep up the good work! You know, many people are hunting round for this information, you could aid them greatly.

  • Muhammad
    Muhammad Friday, 11 March 2016 11:06 Comment Link

    Your post is a timely couiitbntron to the debate

  • Amal
    Amal Friday, 11 March 2016 10:45 Comment Link

    Na tamozennom ktlroone: Na mne bylo odeto svobodnoe platie, visiacaia kofta, na sheu zamotala shatfik-homut zivotik u menia vydaushiisia! V rukah derzala solomennyiu shliapu na urovne zivota i passport. Stoika u ofizera okazalas mne cit nize grudi, on nicego ne zametil. Voprosy: cel vizita turizm, na skolko na 3 nedeli, kuda seicas edete v Washington k podruge, potom vozmozno posmotrim New York, esli uspeem, t.k. eshe hotim navestit druga v San Fran (ot nego u nas bylo priglashenie, no my ego ne pokazyvali), Kem rabotaete prepodavatel angliiskogo iazyka. Rabotali ranshe na kruiznyh lainerah (u menia 2 visy C1 v pasporte) Da. Vse. Otskaniroval palcy, sdelal photo i postavil shtampy na 6 mesiacev mne i muzu. Moe mnenie cem standartnee otvety, tem spokoinee i oficery i vam. Esli cto-to dopolnitelno otvecaite kratko i po sushestvy. Ulybaites, kogda otvwecaete, pokazite, cto obshenie vam priatno, no ne bolee budte spokoiny i sderzanny, skazite sebe, cto razreshenie vam uze dani, a oficer prosto oformliaet vse neobhodimye formalnosti Zelau vsem udaci!!!

  • Richie
    Richie Friday, 11 March 2016 10:41 Comment Link

    That is really fascinating, You are a very skilled blogger.
    I have joined your rss feed and sit up for searching for more of
    your great post. Additionally, I have shared your website in my social networks

  • Arturo
    Arturo Thursday, 10 March 2016 10:16 Comment Link

    I\'ve been exploring for slightly for almost any high-quality articles or blog posts
    in this particular kind of house . Exploring in Yahoo
    I eventually stumbled upon this site. Studying this
    info So i am just glad to exhibit that I have an incredibly excellent uncanny feeling I discovered just
    the things i needed. I a whole lot unquestionably
    can make sure to don?t overlook this site and offer it
    a peek regularly.

  • Alyssa
    Alyssa Thursday, 10 March 2016 06:54 Comment Link

    If you would like to obtain much from this piece of writing then you have to
    apply these strategies to your won blog.Precious lady´s
    and also males

    you look foor the latest boom beach hack? Will need a lot more boom
    beach gems although don´t spent a real income?

    you drop evrry fight as a consequence of your negative security?
    Anyone eliminate each and every episode?
    The particularr Outdated boom beach hacck tend to be patched?
    So we\'ve got the brand new boom beach generator made!!


    While using the boom beach hack you will get tiber as well
    as rock oor some boom beach gold.
    Your boom beach gold power generator can bbe 100 % virus cost-free in addition to free to down load for everyone.

    How to download the particular boom beach hack, the way to utilize boom beach generator along
    with Commonly asked questions with regards to
    this boom beach hack it is possible to found on the
    web site http://www.boombeach-hack.net
    Or maybe you can located many courxe about Youtube . com or even watchever.
    In addition to our boom besach hack are generally consequently
    good that will heavy steam plus the playstation multilevel
    desire to posted your boom beach generator.
    Thus you should provide you sevedal remarks and alo opinions regarding the boom beach hack many of us pput plenty
    of
    operate as well as time too the boom beach generator and nerd several cooments bby ann individual.

    People experience the actual boom beach hack? people can´t make no cost boom beach gems?

    It is possible to e-mail us with your webpage http://www.boombeach-hack.net or even you possibly can e-mail us with
    fb
    twitting or even with a few other internet sites.
    We aall want a person an enjoyable experience with alll the boom
    beach hack as wel as the totally free boom beach gems ass well as the particular
    boom beach gold.
    Don´t employ other boom beach hack because we have now the one authorized programm to
    help compromise oom beach gold and also boom
    beach gems.
    At least we\'ve got additional hacks too for
    you pertaining to exambel we all prodsuced the new hearthstone hack into
    or
    the new sugary snacks beak soft drinks fabble crack nevertheless the most time period individuals function tthere was put in innside the
    boom beach hack.

    Your http://www.boombeach-hack.net Team.

  • Bianca
    Bianca Thursday, 10 March 2016 01:45 Comment Link

    Hi, i feel that i saw you visited my site so i got here to go back the favor?.I\'m attempting to in finding issues to improve my website!I assume its ok to make use of some of your ideas!!

Login to post comments

We are proud to be a leading in consulting and ICT training company. We are happy to serve you. Follow us on:

Our Firm

  • What we do
  • About us
  • Opportunities
  • Opinions & News
  • Contact
  • Partners
  • Awards
  • Experience
  • Events Calendar
  • Media Gallery

Contact Info

Ufundi Plaza,
Moi Avenue
Nairobi, Kenya 00200

+254-20-267-0743

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

8.00 am to 5.00 pm