KAMPALA – Uganda’s IT landscape may be considered to still be developing in relation to security. For many enterprises and organisations, cybersecurity is just another aspect of the digital transformation process which primarily involves the installation of antivirus programs.
The truth is that security plays a fundamental role in business operations, just like the systems and infrastructure it protects. As they invest in the technology and solutions that propel their products, services, and business forward, enterprises must keep their mechanisms and protocols not just up to date, but also compliant with regulations to protect themselves and their customers.
Security audits help them achieve that. By understanding what goes into the audit process, what it aims to achieve, and the importance of data compliance, Ugandan enterprises can make decisions that empower and protect them.
A vulnerable landscape
According to the KPMG Africa Cyber Security Outlook 2022 Survey, while East Africa enjoys the highest adoption of digital transformation, with 89% of organisations undergoing the process, the region experiences the highest proportion of cyberattacks, accounting for 31% of reported incidents. Many Ugandan organisations may not have adequate security mechanisms. Indeed studies have shown how Ugandan entities that handle large volumes of personal data remain vulnerable to cybercriminals. This comes as major institutions such as the Bank of Uganda have highlighted the importance of cybersecurity in the banking sector and how focus should shift to the risks that come with relying on technology to provide essential services.
These challenges also extend to organisations that have cybersecurity solutions in place. Businesses and their physical and digital operating environments evolve just as the cybersecurity landscape, and the threats that emanate from it, do. Therefore, businesses should have security mechanisms in place to protect their infrastructure, and routinely check and ensure it is secure and compliant.
Revealing the big picture
A security audit involves a systematic evaluation of IT and data infrastructure against a set of established criteria. Audits typically assess the fundamental building blocks of the infrastructure, including its physical configurations and environments, data handling processes, software, and user practices.
Audits can be conducted internally by the organisation itself or externally by an outside services provider. External audits are also conducted when organisations need to confirm they are up to date with industry standards and regulatory policies. Security audit frequency is industry dependent and is also affected by the infrastructure, systems, and applications that an organisation uses.
A successful audit reveals critical information about an organisation and its various IT elements. This includes vulnerabilities across the internal landscape, software and hardware performance, data security practices, and, importantly, regulatory and legal compliance status.
Compliance and best practise
With so much emphasis on the value and handling of business and customer data, organisations are obligated to manage that data with care and precision. Any Ugandan business could be a victim of a cyberattack, and regardless of a business’s size, a data breach can snowball into a complex and destructive scenario that results in reputational and financial disaster. Remaining compliant with regulations and adhering to industry standards mitigates this, while signalling to consumers and clients that you take their data and your IT resiliency seriously.
So, what are the ingredients for a successful and comprehensive security audit? After stakeholders have agreed on the goals and scope of the audit, organisations should identify any potential threats to their infrastructure, resources, and data. They should then assess the risk of each of those threats, as well as how well they are prepared to defend against them. And finally, organisations should identify the security measures they need to implement to minimise or mitigate those risks.
A robust security audit should be repeatable and updatable. They should not just happen when an organisation suffers a breach or attack. They should also consider the working conditions of the organisation. With current trends towards hybrid work, businesses should invest in security solutions such as virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and zero-trust strategies that protect data and devices. These security measures respond to the needs and conditions of your business’s IT infrastructure and form a crucial part of the auditing process.
With the help of IT service providers and trusted professionals, Ugandan enterprises can take the steps necessary to protect their systems, data, and themselves by staying up to date with security protocols and procedures. An ever-changing threat and regulatory landscape doesn’t have to be intimidating – not when you have your destination in mind and a compass at hand.
The writer, Patrick Ndegwa, is the SEACOM Business Sales Lead for SEACOM East Africa