CAIRO: When the letter “e appears as a prefix in words such as e-mail, e-banking or e-signatures, it suggests efficiency and speed. When it precedes the word crime, it’s a red flag.
E-crime can cause financial losses and data theft for businesses that do not employ the “e concept in their security.
“We no longer live in a paper-based environment. We live in an electronic environment, which can make it very easy for someone to manipulate facts and figures that can be damaging to a company’s reputation, said Ahmed Shabana, head of advisory services at Ernst & Young Egypt.
“Businesses are now so dependant on technology that any security breach can have dire consequences on operations, he added. “That is why managing IT security has become more and more pressing.
According to a study released by a global security technology firm during the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland last month, businesses risk losing over $1 trillion from loss or theft of data and other cybercrime.
The survey of 800 companies in eight countries showed that 80 percent of malware aimed to make a financial gain, in contrast to traditional viruses and worms which are merely a nuisance.
In the survey, 42 percent of companies said that laid-off employees were the single biggest threat to data security.
“An employee or even an external individual who has malicious intentions.can execute transactions that can seriously harm a business, Shabana told Daily News Egypt. “Do you use a computer or a mobile phone? Can your business survive without use of those tools? Because with your business out there, [hackers] can access your bank accounts and damage your business.
Data lost accidentally or through theft can be expensive to replace or damaging to a company’s reputation or brand, he added. “Your business can lose all revenues achieved if it doesn’t deploy IT securities.
In April of last year, an international discount retailer said it would pay up to $24 million as part of a settlement with MasterCard over a security breach that put credit card data for tens of millions of shoppers at risk.
As technology advances with time, use of malicious software that is designed either to steal data, identity or money also accelerates. “It has become too easy to hack because tools are widely available online, Shabana said. “It is a sub-culture that is gaining popularity. For some people, it beats watching television or going out.
Several experts say that increase in the availability and power of removable storage, such as mobile phones, laptops, and USB sticks, has made data loss or theft easier.
“A virus is like a Trojan horse. Once it is inside your organization, you lose complete control, Shabana explained.
The survey also showed that the average company has $12 million of data stored outside its home country – often in countries with little intellectual property law.
This is where organizations such as Ernst & Young that deal with IT securities can play a role in combating electronic data theft and other e-crime practices.
“We help businesses deal with the unexpected and deal with catastrophes.
We help them formulate a plan.to fight and mitigate [data theft] during day-to-day operations.as well as shorten recovery time, said Shabana.
Besides handling technology security of businesses, the firm also trains individuals to think like hackers and use as well as develop tools that test security of businesses. If it stumbles upon a security weakness, Ernst & Young notifies its clients and fixes the problem, he added.
“Bad things happen.the key is to have as many preventive measures and train individuals to [control] any security breach, he said. “Every time you introduce a new system or application into your business, you have to check security attached to it.
Ernst & Young has several 1,000 clients using its IT security services across the globe, out of which 25-40 clients are present in Egypt.
“In Egypt, the market is relatively young but it has a lot of potential.and level of awareness is improving, Shabana said. “Some company executives might not think highly of IT security unless they are exposed to a [risky] situation.
“Progressive executives realize its importance, and that very few people place their money in, for example a bank, that does not apply technology security, he clarified.
“People become more aware of its importance once they become victims.
[Still], very few organizations take pre-emptive precautions.
“We are trying to change that.and some organizations are responding very well while others are [resisting].
That is why, Ernst & Young is engaging in awareness sessions that aim at highlighting the importance of technology security among businesses.
“Businesses [should be] required by audits to have at least some basic protection.. They need to become pro-active rather than pre-emptive, Shabana added.
“Organizations are moving in the right direction, but in many cases, IT security is brought in later in the game.
Besides protecting a company’s data, reputation and brand, technology security can also help enhance a country’s economic growth, according to Shabana.
“Because IT security helps develop trust, and once you have trust, your economy can grow.