[Yaoundé- 29 March 2023] From 20 – 22 March 2023, four civil society organisations (CSOs) came together in Yaounde under the initiative of a training for CSOs on Digital Security and Safety by the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) in collaboration with TechSoup and Hivemind.
This training took place simultaneously in three countries (Cameroon, Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire) and had participants engage in a participatory approach learning experience on the subject of digital security.
Digital security and safety refer to the measures and practices which individuals and organisations take to protect their digital assets, such as computers, networks, software, and data, from unauthorised access, theft, or damage. Digital security and safety for organisations, includes protecting personal employee information, financial information, and sensitive data as well as ensuring the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of digital assets and protecting against cyber threats like malware, phishing, man-in-the-middle, denial of access. By prioritising digital security and safety, individuals and organisations can maintain the privacy and security of their digital assets and reduce the risk of cyber-attacks and data breaches.
CSOs play a critical role in advocating for social justice, human rights, and other important causes. However, as they operate daily in today’s increasingly digital world, they face numerous security and safety challenges that can compromise their work and put their staff and stakeholders at risk. Some of these risks may be even unknown to them and could go on for unlimited timelines. Here are some key steps that CSOs can take to enhance their digital security and safety. CSOs often deal with sensitive data and information, making digital security a top priority. In today’s digital age, it’s more important than ever to prioritise digital security and safety. Which is why WACSI prioritises this training for CSOs in the region.
This three-day training had participants engage on subjects such as introduction to cybersecurity and cybercrime, disinformation, digital self, online settings, safe browsing, secure communications, physical, device and network securities. Most importantly, the training gave participants an opportunity to envisage context specific security plans and policies for their organisations.
“Through this training, I have been able to learn a lot on the importance of safeguarding our data as an organisation” – Ballo Ngomna, Research Officer, Local Youth Corner Cameroon.
Overall, through this training, some key steps CSOs gathered they can take to protect their digital assets include:
- Conduct a risk assessment: Identify potential risks to your organisation’s digital security, including data breaches, phishing attacks, and malware. This will help you prioritise your security efforts.
- Creating and using strong passwords: Ensure that all employees use strong passwords, which should include a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Passwords should be changed regularly.
- Use two-factor authentication: Two-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security to your accounts by requiring a second form of identification, such as a code sent to your phone or email.
- Encrypt data: Encrypting your data makes it more difficult for hackers to access sensitive information. Use encryption software to protect your files and emails.
- Train employees: Educate your employees on the importance of digital security and provide regular training sessions to keep them up to date on the latest threats and best practices.
- Back up and double back up your data: Regularly backing up your data ensures that you don’t lose important information in the event of a security breach or cyber-attack.
- Monitor your systems: Regularly monitor your systems for any suspicious activity, such as unauthorised access attempts or unusual network traffic.
By taking these steps, CSOs can help protect their digital assets and maintain the trust of their stakeholders.
Amongst other things, this training created a platform for sharing best practices on digital safety by CSOs and collaborating to foster the agenda on digital security and safety of CSOs in west Africa which had been initiated by the implementing organisations.
In the next phase of this capacity strengthening initiative, some of these organisations as per an application and selection process, will be provided with a seed grant which will permit them to amplify the knowledge and skills provided for in this training. This will give them an opportunity to implement lessons learnt in order to document the models provided for in this training and their efficiency in keeping CSOs and their digital assets safe from online security threats.
Thanks to WACSI, Techsoup and Hive Mind, these organisations depart more equipped to provide themselves and their organisations with strategies and remedies to ensure a tight lock security for their digital assets.