Developing Nations Face The Biggest Cyber Security Challenges

The Internet, online services and cyberspace play a vital part in the economic development of any country and a strong cyber capacity is crucial for states to progress and develop in economic, political and social spheres. The need to integrate digital connectivity and infrastructure development policies has been documented by both the telecoms and technology industries as well as policy makers.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has assumed a critical role in facilitating social-economic development in many countries. 

The investment in securing cyberspace affects the success rate of other policy initiatives as well, however, there is a clear need for a deeper dialogue with the development community and recipient countries to better understand how to implement cyber capacities in practice.  

Some countries have taken advantage of the effectiveness and productivity of cyberspace and are in the process of transforming their economies into an information and knowledge based economy. In developing world, ICT is a key component in improving the quality of life and participation in global economic activities. However, these benefits are being challenged by increasingly sophisticated cyber threats where there is no global consensus on how to regulate cyberspace. 

Developing countries, specifically those in Africa, have traditionally lagged developed countries in adoption and use of the Internet. 

Recent reports from the International Telecommunication Union show that “developing countries now account for the vast majority of Internet users, with 2.5 billion users compared with one billion in developed countries.” These developments, though, should be put in context of the Internet penetration rates, which is 81% in developed countries, compared with 40% in developing countries and 15% in the least-developed countries.

Despite poor Internet penetration, developing countries are changing the Internet usage landscape by becoming one of the key players. They are taking advantage of the multitude of benefits that the Internet provides. 

For example, organisations can now forge international relationships with new vendors (to lower costs) and new customers (to increase sales), thereby decreasing communication costs, and resulting in higher efficiency and quicker transaction processing. Despite these benefits, organisations also face many challenges when using the Internet,, for example, the threat from attackers, spammers, and criminal corporations. 

This danger is more real for developing countries and more so for the SMEs, who tend to have limited resources to acquire and implement cybersecurity mechanisms in their organizations.

Current guidance on implementing cyberspace defence is based on the single model of nations with mature infrastructures and broad adoption of Internet usage. The result is that the available guidance does not directly address the challenges encountered by nations with emerging ICT infrastructures. Policy makers, such as those in Rwanda who viewed current guidance as not implementable, have assessed that a strategy based on existing guidance would not solve their problem, is not reflective of their needs and is not implementable with their national resources.

Benefits:    Securing the Internet enables numerous consequence, both beneficial and malicious actions. The beneficial activities include: e-shopping, e-communications, e-business and e-learning. It also has the capability to transform healthcare, education, and government. These transformations are the result of the Internet fostering countless beneficial activities. But there are drawbacks.

Drawbacks:     Inevitably, cyber criminals have realised the potential of the Internet for malicious purposes. They have been honing their skills and capabilities since before the mass adoption of the Internet. Some have become extremely capable and dangerous while the majority is less capable but still often effective especially on soft targets. Many of their attacks presently exploit financially rewarding targets, which has spared the less well connect countries and the recent adopters. 

One relevant cyber threat to national interests of an ICT emerging countries is the potential harm to economic growth.  Governments can best ensure the protection of critical assets in cyberspace by following eight key principles for authentication policy:

  1.      Have a plan that explicitly addresses authentication. While a sound approach to authentication is just one element of a proper approach to cyber risk management, any cyber initiative that does not include a focus on strong authentication is woefully incomplete.
  2.     Recognise the security limitations of shared secrets. Policymakers should understand the limitations of first-generation MFA technologies such as OTPs that rely on shared secrets and look to incent adoption of more secure alternatives, such as those that utilise public key cryptography where keys are always stored on, and never leave, the user’s device.
  3.     Ensure authentication solutions support mobile. As mobile transaction usage grows, any policy that is not geared toward optimizing use of MFA in the mobile environment will fail to adequately protect transactions conducted in that environment.
  4.     Don’t prescribe any single technology or solution — focus on standards and outcomes. Authentication is in the midst of a wave of innovation, and new, better technologies will continue to emerge. For this reason, governments should focus on a principles-based approach to authentication policy that does not preclude the use of new technologies.
  5.    Encourage widespread adoption by choosing authentication solutions that are easy to use. Poor usability frustrates users and prevents widespread adoption. Next-generation MFA solutions dramatically reduce this “user friction” while offering even greater security gains. Policymakers should look for incentives to encourage use of next-generation MFA that addresses both security and user experience.
  6.     Understand that the old barriers to strong authentication no longer apply. One of the greatest obstacles to MFA adoption has been cost, previously, few organisations could afford to implement first-generation MFA technologies. Today, there are dozens of companies delivering next-generation authentication solutions that are stronger than passwords, simpler to use and less expensive to deploy and manage.
  7.     Know that privacy matters. MFA solutions can vary greatly in their approach to privacy, some track users’ every move or create new databases of consumer information. Such solutions raise privacy concerns and create new, valuable caches of information that are subject to attack. 
  8.    Use biometrics appropriately. The near ubiquity of biometric sensors in mobile devices is creating new options for secure authentication, making it easier to use technology such as fingerprint and face recognition. Biometrics are best used as just one layer of a multi-factor authentication solution, matching a biometric on a device to then unlock a second factor. 

The Internet is a borderless globally connected network that enables cyber attackers to harm other countries using computers in countries with poor security to launch attacks, use as proxies to remain anonymous and to add to the global level of cyber insecurity. 

Consequently, the openness of the Internet requires all nations to have effective cyber security policies to have a safe and secure Internet. Having trustworthy guidance on building cyberspace defenses in  emerging countries is an important objective for all countries.

ITU:     HBR:   Salah KabandaSabir Sadique:    ICT21:     Carnegie Mellon University:     Daniel Otieno:    CYBIL

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