Strong cybersecurity to build trust in a digital world | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 14, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 05:29 AM, April 14, 2021

Strong cybersecurity to build trust in a digital world

Among perennial issues such as geopolitical, economic, climate and health, one of the biggest challenges for countries today is cybersecurity.

As businesses and individuals become increasingly dependent on technology and digital connectivity, and with Covid-19 exacerbating our dependence, any disruption in our digital progress could be crippling.

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And so, a "Digital Bangladesh" is no longer a dream, it is well and truly ubiquitous and has become the foundation of our development journey.

Rising digitisation is increasing the risks posed by cyber threats. If governments cannot ensure secure and trusted digital connectivity in a data driven world, individuals, businesses and the economy will suffer.

To that end, a "Digital Bangladesh" is sacrosanct and cannot be compromised.

However, Bangladesh's cybersecurity was compromised as recently as this week, when over 200 organisations in Bangladesh suffered cyberattacks, attributed to a few international hacker groups from East European and Asian countries.

Cyber and privacy risks are now everywhere, permeating the entire business network.

So, it's no surprise that this resulted in cyber threats becoming the number two concern, as cited by various chief executive officers (CEOs) in PwC's Global CEO Survey 2021.

The pandemic and health related crises topped the list of threats.

Paradoxically, despite their level of concern, CEOs are not proportionately boosting their spending on cybersecurity and data privacy.

Banks and non-bank financial institutions (NBFI) are making it increasingly easy to open accounts or apply for loans. Besides, the addition of new digital services improves the banking experience.

Still though, the standalone digital services that many banks rely on as a key part of their growth strategy pose security challenges.

Regardless of a financial institution's overall objectives, security is inherently tied to these goals. Without security and protection of customer data, it is difficult to achieve other types of growth objectives.

Bangladesh Bank has cautioned all banks to be vigilant against cyber threats and its possible fallout.

Criminals target financial institutions since that's where the money is. However, banks are yet to take adequate measures to tackle cyber lapses and hacking.

So, the banks need to enhance their cybersecurity and fraud controls and integrate cybersecurity programmes starting with assessing cybercrime risk.

Banks and business organisations should view the increase in number and severity of breaches as a wakeup call to integrate elements of their cybersecurity and fraud programmes.

Bangladesh ranks second in South Asia in the cybersecurity index that is compiled to assess a country's preparedness for basic cyberattacks and their efforts to manage cybercrimes.

According to the Bangladesh Bank Annual Report for fiscal 2019-20, it has taken measures regarding cybersecurity.

The measures include training and awareness programmes, formation of a separate Cyber Security Unit (CSU) responsible for ensuring IT security, and enhancing information and cybersecurity of Bangladesh Bank.

And now, all banks and NBFIs are to get ISO 27001 certification.

Government agencies are a prime target for criminals who seek to cause disruption, spread distrust and obtain classified information.

Governments all over the world hold sensitive information which could be misused if accessed by hackers. As a result, they often come under cyberattacks but worryingly, most do not know if or how frequently they are being targeted.

Certain measures governments can take to help prevent cyber threats include training public servants on how to remain vigilant and ensuring cooperation at all levels of government, both local and international, due to the globalised nature of the threat.

Governments could also enhance their monitoring systems, credentials, and security details.

In Bangladesh, the government needs an action plan detailing cooperation with the private sector to boost cyber resilience.

While advanced countries understand the need for cybersecurity and see it as a basic right, developing nations are slow to acknowledge and invest in the sector. 

To respond to network threats and create a secure information society, comprehensive prevention and enforcement measures are needed for the people, processes, and technology.

Bangladesh has successfully applied ICT in rural areas to strengthen education and reduce poverty.

The government has focused its attention on reducing poverty by strengthening education through applying ICT in rural areas.

But with each new device, user or business that connects to the internet, cyber risks increase.

Globalisation and the highly competitive environment that comes with it has a significant impact on production and services sectors.

Bangladesh's science and technology systems must be infused with a new energy if it is to play a decisive and beneficial role in enhancing the lives of its citizens.

Our government has formulated some policies to protect the country from cyber threats.

The National ICT Policy, Cyber Law, and Electronic Transaction Act have already been adopted. Besides, appropriate education on computer alerts and emergency responses are underway by different agencies, including those of the government.

Post-pandemic, key industries such as garments, shipping and cement, will have adopted digitised operating models like other developing countries. However, we need research on the business risks from increased cyber exposure.

Gone are the days of simple firewalls and antivirus software being your sole security measures. Cyber criminals today have more technical prowess, motivation, and financial resources than ever before to carry out disruptive attacks on a country's critical infrastructure.

Staying one step ahead of cyber criminals is not an easy task but implementing robust, proactive security processes is the most effective way to deal with this dangerous threat.

The writer is a partner at PwC Bangladesh. Views expressed in this article are his own.

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