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Okeremi: Digital Hackers are Drawn to Financial Data

Managing Director/CEO, Arit of Africa, an indigenous technology company, Ronke Okeremi

Managing Director/CEO, Arit of Africa, an indigenous technology company, Ronke Okeremi, spoke with journalists on the importance of cybersecurity and ways technology can help businesses to increase sales and revenue. Excerpts:


Cyber-attacks have been on the increase. What form of data are most attractive to digital hackers?

Financial data is most attractive and hence financial institutions are more likely to be attacked. Recently, identity theft has been very rampant and as such, organisations that house or store identity data should therefore be at alert.  Federal government’s initiative to harmonise all identity data that were previously in silos via the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) harmonisation project is commendable. Global espionage has also been very rampant. That is why it is been said that World War 3 will most likely be a cyber war.

Governments globally play big role in internet security, how would you evaluate federal government’s input in this regard?

The federal government’s input through the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has been commendable. The efforts and responses of the director general of NITDA during the recent Wannacry global ransomware attack was quite commendable. We have also met the NITDA team led by the director general at global information technology (IT) events such as GITEX in Dubai where the focus is on information security and core infrastructure as an enabler for global business. The federal government however can and is advised to do more. This will enable Nigerian businesses to compete on the same level playing field with their global counterparts.

Core infrastructure is inevitable in business process today. Why is this so?

Information technology core infrastructure is a critical component of the IT portfolio. IT core infrastructure can be leveraged upon to achieve positive effect on business performance in a number of ways. This includes but not limited to optimisation of processes and hence increase sales and revenue, provide timely and accurate information to facilitate better decision making, automation of processes that will  enable businesses to reduce costs and lastly provide a technology platform to enable other systems to be produced. Information technology is now an enabler for most businesses and no longer an obstacle. Businesses now leverage on technology to increase sales and revenue. Core infrastructure is at the heart of every serious business entity


How can business owners identify quality enterprise security products?

There are several industry analyst reports that can be assessed. Also business owners should ensure they engage properly through their IT teams and ask very important questions such as “the vendor should provide successful case studies that have been done locally in Nigeria, local support structure, among others.

How important are security issues to organisations in Nigeria?

Information security is crucial to all organisations to protect their information and conduct their business. Information security is defined as the protection of information and the system as well as hardware that use, store and transmit that information. Therefore, information security performs four important functions for an organisation, which is to protect the organisation’s ability to function, enable the safe operation of applications implemented on the organisation’s IT systems, protect the data that organisations collect and use, and to safeguard the technology assets in use in the organisation. There are also challenges and risk involved in implementing information security in organisation. We witnessed the recent ransomware attacks and how it disabled business activities of most organisations. In business, time is money. You can imagine the cost in naira if any of the banks is shut down for a period of 30 minutes due to ransomware attack.

In the global economy, what do you think is the importance of enterprise security for any organisation to reach its goals?

Recently, there are reports of cases of several hacking scandals and security breaches that aim to smear top brands, exploit financial gains of the victims. We live in a fast-paced global-economy that relies on huge data transported across the internet. It is important for businesses to safeguard sensitive information, services and products. This further protects their internal and third-party customers from theft, email-borne viruses, worms, trojans, spyware, malware and phishing attacks.

With several vulnerabilities and sophisticated threats, how can organisations prevent cyber attacks?

Organisations should be aware that threats are real and that they can be attacked at some point in time. Proactive measures should therefore be put in place before, during and after an attack. Organisations should always consider that if the United States (US) can be hacked, in spite of its global technology fame, then which country is safe? Nobody or country is safe and the question is when and how will the attacks come. Businesses should carry out frequent and proactive vulnerability assessment on their infrastructure in order to determine threat areas. There are solutions that offer early warning threat signals which aims to provide alerts on incoming threats, shutdown and remediate for prevention. These come at a cost to implement but would however prevent organisations to a large extent from cyber attacks.

How can businesses in Nigeria leverage on the advantages of core infrastructure?

Core infrastructure includes major technologies, which range from security services, data centre development, management of IT operations and network, among others. Critically, assessing the above listed technologies, they are built to create flexibility in business environment and provide a platform where the majority of business initiatives that drive agility and innovation are built upon. Implementing core infrastructure also helps to connect business applications with customers, partners, and employees. Without appropriate technology that drives operations and access to these applications, businesses cannot function effectively and business strategies will fail to yield desired results. It is for this reason that we advise customers to ensure that their sensitive data, as well as financial data, are protected with the right technology solutions.

What is the impact of ransomware attacks on businesses, and what have been the responses of business owners in preventing the attacks?

As a technology company we have always advised our customers to look at prevention of cyberattacks from three different ways. The first is to invest in people to ensure that workers are fully educated to manage crisis from such attacks; the second is to invest in processes, and ensure that sustainable processes are in place to address malware and ransomware attacks, and the third one is to invest in technology that will prevent such attacks.