January 23, 2023

Small to medium businesses’ vulnerable to cyber-attacks: report

Ropafadzo Munyaka in Zimbabwe

Gweru – There is high risk of cyberattack among small to medium business entities in Zimbabwe intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic, says a report launched in Bulawayo on Wednesday by Africa Watch Trust.

According to the State of Cybersecurity for Small to Medium Businesses Report in Zimbabwe, compiled by Africa Watch Trust, threats to digital infrastructure in Zimbabwe’s private sector increased amid loopholes created by the rapid uptake of remote work during the pandemic as well as poor knowledge of digital security.

The 2020 cyber security report for Zimbabwe revealed that the threat of hacking, data breaches and ransomware increased as companies intensified automation to boost efficiency and effectiveness in the country.

It says that 70 percent of Zimbabwean businesses have leveraged cloud services to sustain operations in the pandemic era while 80 percent of them said they experienced a spike in cyber threats.

In addition, 90 percent of companies surveyed in Zimbabwe said they were not prioritizing the strengthening their cyber defenses to help avert attacks that could be a drain on finances besides worsening reputational damage.

The situation in Zimbabwe, according to the report, where chief information officers and network administrators said that the risk of cyber-attacks had intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic and that digital attacks are constantly evolving on a larger scale.

Claret Mudzengi, Chief Executive Officer of Greynut Investments, Zimbabwe, said that the increased use of emerging technologies like cloud services was accompanied by risk of sophisticated attacks like email phishing, malware, identity theft and data intrusion.

Mrs Mudzengi said that enhanced security of companies’ cyberspace was a prerequisite to sustain confidence with their clients besides averting costly litigation arising from data theft.

Tinashe Manzungu, Chairman of Zimbabwe Chamber of Small to Medium Enterprises, said most companies in Zimbabwe would hold the current difficult economic environment responsible for failure to implement solid cyber security measures.

However, Clive Makumbe, Executive Director of Africa Watch Trust said small to medium companies were most vulnerable because they lacked documentation on policies and procedures in cyber security controls, user awareness on basic security controls, re-configurations and system hardening of key platforms, monitoring and controlling access management as well as back-up and recovery of critical data.

“Cyber-attacks are now common in Zimbabwe and there is need to build capacity of small businesses inorder to curb the rise of cyber-attacks. Already we are implementing a programme titled “Protect My Business from Cyber Bullies” which is going to run for one year across the country and we are targeting small businesses in cities and towns such as Masvingo, Gweru, Kwekwe, Mutare, Bulawayo, Chinhoyi, Kadoma, Beitbridge and Harare.”

Africa Watch Trust advocates for media freedom and freedom of expression in Zimbabwe. Africa Watch Trust programmes have grown and now have a national outreach especially through its media and human rights violations monitoring programme.

As a result, Africa Watch Trust’s work and agenda have also been taken up by many civic organisations in the country, thereby creating consciousness of the linkages between media freedom, freedom of expression and broader human rights and democratic campaigns.

The founding of Africa Watch Trust was triggered by the Windhoek Declaration on Promoting Independent and Pluralistic Media in Africa of 1991.