Wake-up call to hasty Internet users: Big brother is watching
How many times do you post your location in real-time, say when on holiday, including the hotel you are staying in? How many times have you happily used free Wi-Fi to not only chat with friends, but also make financial transactions? Or used office Wi-Fi to, say, gossip about your boss with colleagues?
Ms Judy Makena is 21-year-old college student. Like many of her peers, she and her phone are joined at the hip.
It’s from her phone that she gets the day’s news, catches up and chats with her friends.
Ms Makena knows all the cafes in town that have free Wi-Fi, and will normally pop in and order a glass of juice, which she nurses until she has chatted with her friends, checked jobs online and updated herself on the day’s happening.
Once in a while, she and her friends take selfies, which they upload on their social media pages, saying where exactly they are. Has she ever imagined that someone could spy on her this way?
“No… is it possible?” she wonders.
Ms Makena is just one of many Kenyans oblivious of the risks that come with using the Internet carelessly.
If you logged onto Facebook right now, chances are that one or two of your networks will have posted their location in real time, especially if they are on holiday or eating at the trendiest joint in town.
“Essentially, such people have announced to the world where they are, risking their safety in case there is someone with a plan to harm them,” says Mr Joseph Mathenge, Chief Operating Officer, Serianu, a cybersecurity and business consulting firm.
“Most people use free Wi-Fi without caring to know who is running it and whether sniffing tools which collect data from their devices are installed on the network. The security of most free Wi-Fis can easily be compromised,” Mr Mathenge says.
He says it’s possible for a malicious hacker to create a similar network where users unsuspectingly connect to it. By connecting to the network, the hacker can then see everything the users do on their devices.
“To be on the safe side, avoid accessing personal information and making financial transactions over free Wi-Fi,” he says.
And if you did not know, it’s also possible for your employer to see what you are up to if you are logged onto office Wi-Fi.
“It would take someone with a sophisticated level of hacking to spy on you, but yes, it can be done,” says Mathenge.
If you have the habit of gossiping about your employer or your boss with colleagues on the various office chat groups using office Wi-Fi, beware, Big Brother might just be watching.
And if you are in the habit of freely giving out your email address and phone number in the name of networking, be warned also because the person you just gave your personal details may not be interested in networking.
Also when you post your CV online, avoid including the contact details of your referees as you expose them to hacking.
Kenya has been a victim of numerous attacks from hackers, who have not spared senior government officials and the Defence Forces.
This year, the government fell victim when 18 of its sites were hacked and defaced. KDF’s Twitter account was hacked in 2014.
“Cyber security is a global problem, and this can be attributed to the increasingly connected nature of our lives. More and more organisations are also moving into this digital space, which increases the target range of attack from hackers” says Mr Mathenge.
Concurring, Mr Anthony Muiyuro, a cybersecurity specialist, notes that there is a lot of innovation going on in Kenya to use the efficiency that comes with going digital. However, this also increases the threat landscape.
“Kenya has a high technology adoption rate. Although we’re actively innovating, most of the time it’s not done in a cyber-secure manner. Many organisations innovate with an agency to get the innovation running and end up treating security as an afterthought,” he says.
Banking institutions are continuously coming up with innovative ways where clients can self-service instead of seeking services in their banking halls to save on costs.
Ms Tabitha Mwangi, a security expert, says that even though innovation is to be lauded, this has led to the financial sector being most affected by cybercrimes.
In a report released by Serianu, it was found out that cybercrimes are on the rise in the country. In 2018 alone, Sh29.5 billion was lost to cyber criminals with the financial sector suffering the most.