Understanding cybersecurity in a more connected Bangladesh

Cyber threats are an inevitable issue in an era of new technologies and continuous innovation. Recent bank incidents, reports of hacking, ATM fraud and reports of privacy issues in mobile applications are in the news. What follows are a series of seminars and conversations about cybersecurity. However, most conversations about security threats remain one dimensional and reactionary. People do not look at the larger problem and limit the issue to short term fixes like focusing on firewalls and other easy solutions.

Threats also lie in something good– in the quick adaptation of new technology that is transforming Bangladeshi businesses and the economy. However, if we are not careful about product security, our acceptance of new technology may end up costing more than its benefits.

To put things into perspective, hackers stole a staggering $172 Billion worldwide, just in 2017 alone. 

How do we prepare ourselves for the upcoming technologies?

TechCom aims to fill in that gap– raise awareness about these issues, connect the right stakeholders and provide services to improve cybersecurity. In an event called ThinkTech by TechCom, held at Amari Hotel on July 2019, Techcom brought together global and local tech leaders to discuss different facets of Cybersecurity, Automation & AI and how each issue will affect and change Bangladesh.

At the event, the Managing Director of Secunet International, a German IT and Security company; Syed Almas Kabir, the Chairman of BASIS, representatives from UI Path, the largest automation platform in the region; representatives from FernTech a tech startup concentrating on AI, cybersecurity representatives from BRAC and other government agencies talked about the barriers and solutions. Attendees brought forth their expertise in the local scenario of private and public cybersecurity.

Poor Practices 

In Bangladesh, the ignorance towards the importance of cybersecurity is unusually high. There is a clear lack of realization and urgency in building systems that are secure from the start. Cybersecurity is often misunderstood with one dimensional lens. It is thought to be as simple as installing an antivirus software. A very poor habit of cyber hygiene persists.

Common malpractices are embedded in our official cultures where we still use Gmail to send confidential emails.

Important documents containing sensitive information are sold to paper recyclers. Far from the option of shredding financial details, meeting minutes can easily be found in the hands of the neighbourhood jhalmuri wala. A simple survey at Banani supermarket will reveal that almost 50% of the daily internet users in public computers do not log out of their emails when leaving; leaving all their personal data and communication vulnerable. All of these are alarming, to say the least. 

Getting in the way of growing abroad

Products that Bangladeshi software companies make, reflect this poor cyber hygiene. Bangladesh lags behind in the IT sector is that even though we have major software firms who can make beautiful looking, efficient software. One of the reasons is they tend to overlook the security issue, leaving us vulnerable. This diminishes our reputation which is essential to take off as a global destination and marketplace for IT solutions. 

Preparing for Today

Before starting to talk about all solutions available out there, Bangladesh needs to be aware of cybersecurity threats. Where do these threats come from and in which ways they could affect us. 

Decision-makers do not always know why cybersecurity is essential and the different ways they can protect their organisations. ThinkTech by Techcom aimed to make them more aware of the pressing need for cyber hygiene. They also discussed the urgency of keeping up with the latest trends in cybersecurity. At the event, there was an emphasis on a holistic approach to security.

Following the discussions on awareness, TechCom Ltd. and its partners were able to discuss different solutions, products and certifications that are steps towards more cybersecurity.

Techcom and Secunet urged for a deeper analysis of present malpractices. Organisations need to be secure in every step of their processes. Actions need to be taken so that there are security systems in an application layer. With each new device and new connection, there needs to be sufficient defense so that people cannot hack into the software or devices. 

Closing Backdoors for Hackers 

Among the many steps that software companies can take to improve is to dedicate personnel for a DevOps team. Techcom emphasized on the need for an IT team dedicated to overseeing the security side of the developer team. The team needs to make sure that everyone adheres to proper cybersecurity protocols. Software companies can increase documentation and check for flaws before releasing their products. Moreover, before products need to go through intense VAPT (Vulnerability And Penetration Testing) before being deployed. 

Hopefully, we will slowly understand the importance of secure technology. As our country leaps forward towards being more digitally inclusive, it’s time both public and private sectors invest in implementing the right, secure and certified technology.

This article was written from a conversation with Nibras Abdullah Karim, CTO of Techcom Ltd, the organizer of ThinkTech 2019.