Tuesday, January 24, 2012


There has been a significant surge of small and medium enterprises that conduct their business online. They are to be found in varied sectors from delivery, call centers, software programming, insurance brokerage, money transfer and many others.

These SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) are primarily a product of the rapid development of the digital infrastructure in Kenya. Wider coverage, faster internet access and cheaper bandwidth, compared to satellite, have spurred their growth.

SMEs use technology as a business leverage that enables them to reduce operating costs, enlarge their market footprint in East Africa and ultimately achieve sustainable competitive advantage over their direct competitors.

SMEs have therefore invested heavily in ICT but this reliance on technology creates a number of problems for them. One of their biggest headaches is ICT security.

SMEs that do not employ ICT security measures usually find themselves the victims of online threats. Valuable strategic plans are stolen, denial of service attacks can be aimed at their services and many other online threats could befall them. This is due to the cut-throat competition in this size sector.

SMEs could mitigate against the ICT security risks by doing the following. Getting a secure hosting provider would be a sensible place to start.

SMEs depend on their websites as the front facing their customers. These websites usually contain their email addresses, e-commerce engines and other valuable data. These websites can be hacked into if a web provider is dodgy.

Another must-do is blocking of all unwanted traffic – completely. SMEs operate on tight budgets and online downtime is usually very expensive to the company. It is therefore crucial to keep out unwanted ‘online visitors’. This can be done through a firewall. A firewall is software that filters incoming (and outgoing) traffic and is able to shut down traffic that it deems suspicious. It protects your resident server from attack.

The last must-do concerns Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certification. SSL is a protocol for transmitting documents via the internet. It uses a strong scrambling technique that ensures information (for example credit card numbers) remain confidential during transmission.

SMEs can engage the services of reputable international firms like VeriSign or Thawte to certify their sites as secure.

SMEs are the backbone of our economy and as e-commerce gains a foothold in Kenya the onus is on them to reassure potential customers that it is safe to click and buy from their websites. This can only be achieved if they internalize ICT security as part of their business fundamentals.

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