Wednesday December 16 2009

Earning from the fight against cyber crime

Mr Thomas Bbosa is the Managing Director, BitWork Technologies, an organisation that provides data security solutions to organisations. He spoke to Emojong Osere about what the organisation does in providing solutions to organisation data security

When was BitWork Technologies Limited established and what informed your passion to start such an investment?
Our Company started operations in 2005. I have always had a dream of doing what I love and working with technology has always fascinated me. I also believe my strengths are in identifying technology gaps and providing solutions for the same.
I have since developed a passion for information and computer security, which affected my decision in becoming an information security professional. But BitWork Technologies is not all about me, I work with a very dedicated team of executive and engineers to achieve our company goals.

And what does the investment deal in?
BitWork Technologies Ltd is an Information Technology Integrator, providing technology solutions to companies in Uganda and even outside. Our core strengths are in identifying Information security gaps and risks in organisations and assisting them reduce the risks. We also do provide other IT solutions and services to industries that range from International organisations and embassies, education and research, telecommunication, finance and banking, manufacturing, health among others.

Do you think data in Ugandan organisations is adequately protected?
Generally this depends on the size of the organisation as well as the industry in which it belongs. Most organisations in the Finance and Banking sector have tried to protect their data and information assets, as they have to meet some compliance standards and are targeted most.
The big corporations too have taken some steps as well to secure their data. Unfortunately I don’t think most of the other organisations have done enough in this regard More so, the Small and Medium Enterprises and government establishments.

What can organisations do to ensure their data is not hacked into?
There is no ‘one glove fits all’ solution to securing information and data. Organisations and government need to take a holistic approach to this problem. First of all, there is need to have the Computer Misuse, Electronic Signatures and Electronic Transactions Bill passed into law. This will help make the law as the first layer of protection against cyber crime and Electronic crimes.
Also, senior management in organisations need to realise that securing data and information assets, is a business issue and not an IT issue per se.
Therefore there is need to put in place administrative policies and guidelines in organisations to protect them against data breaches.
We have already seen that there is increased data breaches and fraud that come from within organisations, either intentionally or unknowingly. Organisations also need to make use of available technologies against these threats, from solutions that stop and fight viruses and spam e-mail, to solutions that can detect and stop any intrusions in company networks.

There is an increase in cyber crime cases. Are hackers winning the war against data security providers?
There is a belief in the Information Security industry that the “bad guys” are currently having an upper hand. But why? Because today’s hacker is financially motivated- with the adversary able to focus time and money on attacks while the target has to prioritise spending on IT security among other budget items.

The days of the “thrill attacks,” where the attackers were hacking into Company networks for the fun of it, are almost gone. What we have today is an organised cyber crime network, that aims at financial gain and tries as much as possible to cover their tracks.
So we are faced with a situation where cyber crime is continually growing and the cyber criminals have now organised themselves into structures and have specialised jobs.

Some are specialised at foot printing, which is gathering information on targeted victims and stealing credentials (phising, spy ware, among others) that can be used to break into Corporate Networks, and selling it to their colleagues, who specialise in hacking into organisations. Others are into Ransomware, where they log into victims computers, encrypt files, and demand for Ransoms in order to decrypt the information. But we also believe that Good will always overcomes Evil. That’s why we continue to try and find solution.

What challenges does your business face?
There are several challengers that we do face, just like any other business. But most of them rotate around the high cost of doing business in Uganda. These include infrastructure issues like poor and costly power supply, costly and poor internet, lack of access to finances and capital for expansion and growth given the high interest rates. There is also a poor credit culture as some clients once given credit take long to make payment and others even default.
This in turn affects the cash flow of the company. The other challenge arises from our educations system. Although our graduates have the papers, they have a poor working culture, making it harder to identify productive and good employees. The few good ones end up being taken by the big corporations or go abroad.
The other challenge and probably one of the biggest issues in Uganda is the issue of rampant corruption in procurement processes in public entities and other organisations. This makes it harder for young businesses like ours, to win big tenders, which are vital for growth and expansion.
The other issue is of providers who try to imitate and copy what we do without having the capability or know how of doing it. This causes confusion to our prospects and clients.

And how are you managing these challenges?
As a company, we have always tried to identify our weaknesses and strengths. And we use our strength to overcome some of these challenges that we can have influence on.
We also have over the few years tried to work on our weaknesses and make sure that we continually improve as a company. The company continually explores and remains knowledgeable in the latest technologies available in the industry.
By doing this, BitWork Technologies not only provides the latest and greatest solutions to clients, but also operates at a maximum efficiency within itself. Our approach focuses on forming long lasting partnership with our clients, we take pride in our customer relationships and the ability to meet and exceed customer expectations. We have plans of joining trade and industry organisations like Uganda Chambers of Commerce, Traders Associations and other business related associations.

How to develop the right relationship with your bank

Banks are not as cold and unapproachable as they may have once seemed. In turn, bank staff are encouraging customers to be open and honest about their small business needs. Approaching your bank for expansion or any other kind of finance can be nerve-racking, but don’t let it put you off. It is imperative that your business banker knows who you are and what your company does. A strong relationship is key to ensuring that an overall solution is achieved in the ongoing process of financing your business.

Why forge a relationship with your bank?
In the past, banks may have felt more like “Big Brothers” than business partners, keeping customers at an arm’s length and not seeming approachable at all. As a result, your interaction with your bank may have been limited to those times when you’ve stood at the bank manager’s door with your hat in your hands. Fortunately, things have improved and these days banks welcome - in fact prefer - building a relationship with you. This has a number of benefits for both parties.
* It helps to build up trust. Your bank gets to know you and what you do. Today banks encourage customers to keep them informed of their business’s progress. You can do this by sharing your dreams - and financial results - regularly. This approach could make future interactions with your bank easier and quicker.

*Keeping your eggs in one basket is a good thing. By keeping all your business in one place, you can use your personal banking profile and existing relationship to benefit your business. Your bank will be able to more accurately calculate the risk of lending funds to you, while you will be in a better position to negotiate lower interest rates.

It makes better business sense for everyone. If your bank knows everything there is to know about you and your business, it is easier for them to assess you. Remember that your banking consultant only knows what you tell him or her. The more you share, the more he or she can help you build up your business.