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Firms warned of cyber threat

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Companies and organisations must proactively adopt safety measures to guard against emerging threat of cybercrime, the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) has warned.

Cybercrime involves criminal activities committed through computers or the internet.

Macra Communications Manager, Clara Mwafulirwa, commented on cybercrime in a response to The Daily Times’ questionnaire on what steps organisations need to follow to protect themselves.

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“Internet today has become part of life due to the growing dependence on it worldwide. Cybercrime is emerging as a serious threat to organisations and mankind in Malawi and the world as a whole due to its trait of anonymity. A cyber attack can have an adverse impact on an organisation such as damaged reputation, vanishing customers and financial losses,” Mwafulirwa said.

Recently, the Football Association of Malawi (Fam) had its website hacked by a group called Moroccan Islamic Union-Mail.

Although it is still unclear why Fam website was attacked, information technology expert Higger Mkandawire, suggested that sometimes hackers look for information for use from competitors or when testing a new software.

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To be safe from cybercrime, Mwafulirwa suggested several steps such as keeping operating systems updated and patched regularly plus deploying firewall software that opposes viruses.

“Keep your browsers updated at all times with the latest version of the software. Keep all system software updated. Encrypt your wireless network. Restrict software and set up administrative rights so that nothing can be installed on company computers without authorisation. Use filtering that controls access to data,” she explained.

“Block access to restricted sites with internet filters to prevent employees and hackers from uploading data to storage clouds. Remove or disable USB ports so that malicious data can’t be downloaded. Implement strict password policies. Encrypt entire drives, folders and files.”

Overall, Mwafulirwa said growth of the information and communications technology (ICT) sector was contributing to the growth of the economy, hence the need for policy guidelines on the same.

“In an effort to create a conducive environment for the sustained growth and use of ICT in Malawi, as well as address the threats that come with increased adoption of ICT, the government of Malawi undertook a review of existing legislation and developed the Communications Act (2016) and the Electronic Transactions and Cyber Security Act (2016).

“The law gives mandate to Macra to establish the Malawi-Cert [computer emergency readiness team] within the structure of the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority, which shall be responsible for coordinating response to cyber security incidents at the national level and cooperate with regional and international entities involved with the management of cyber security incidents to serve as a base for national coordination in order to respond to ICT security threats in Malawi.”

Due to this law, Macra has started Cert establishment and aforensic laboratory is being established under Malawi Police Service to be able to investigate cyber-related crimes under the Government Reform Programme.

The government is also developing a national cyber security strategy.

Across the borders, South Africa’s Sunday Times newspaper reported that hackers launched 6,000 cyber-attacks against South African infrastructure, internet service providers (ISPs) and businesses in October alone.

The BBC also reported recently that Kenya businesses are losing about $146 million (£96million) every year to cybercrime.

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