Building resilience: How telcos can achieve cybersecurity excellence


Cybersecurity is more important than ever for telecommunications companies. FILE PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

In our rapidly advancing digital landscape, cybersecurity is more important than ever, especially for telecommunications companies.

Recent events have shown how crucial it is for telcos to protect their digital future as they play a central role in securing our increasingly interconnected world.

For Kenya, the digital revolution presents a double-edged sword. While it holds the potential to transform the country, it also exposes us to new risks.

According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) cyberattacks are on the rise as more people and organisations go online.

In their 2023 Economic Survey, online crime incidents doubled from 339.1 million in 2021 to 700 million in 2022.

For telcos, this is a wake-up call. Recognising their pivotal role in providing the networks and services that enable Kenyans online interactions, any breach could have severe consequences for them and their customers.

However, cybersecurity threats go beyond telcos. These threats can have a devastating impact on individuals, organisations, and even entire societies due to data breaches, financial losses, disrupted operations, identity theft, and diminished trust, threatening our digital way of life.

Awareness of common cybersecurity attacks is vital for the ability to take proactive measures against cyberattacks, mitigating risks and vulnerabilities altogether.

KNBS, in its report, lists malware attacks, Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks and web application attacks as the most common cyber threats in Kenya.

In 2022, malware attempts led with 163.9 million, followed by DDoS attacks at 82.7 million attempts and web attacks at one million.

Malware attacks involve the use of malicious software designed to compromise computers, networks, and digital devices causing data breaches and stealing sensitive user data.

They come in the form of viruses, worms, spyware, and ransomware.

On the other hand, a DDoS attack seeks to overwhelm a target system, network, or website with a flood of traffic from multiple sources. The goal is to render a system or a website unavailable, denying users access to services.

Telcos must not only ensure the seamless flow of data but also protect it with unwavering dedication. This underscores the critical importance of telcos taking cybersecurity seriously. Here is how:

Firstly, they must proactively defend against the prevalent cybersecurity threats. Going by the staggering number of attempts recorded, these threats loom large. Therefore, telcos must develop robust defences against these interruptions.

Moreover, telcos must ensure the resilience of their networks against DDoS attacks. Recent instances of such attacks on essential services under e-Citizen underline the critical nature of this defence.

Telcos should also be acutely aware of the threat posed by phishing and spamming and take steps to mitigate such attacks.

In an era of evolving cyber threats, the collaboration between telcos, government agencies, and cybersecurity experts in the form of knowledge sharing and the pooling of resources can help to create a more secure digital environment.

Additionally, telcos can play a pivotal role in raising cybersecurity awareness among their customers.

Mr Nduati is Airtel Kenya IT Director.