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CORONA VIRUS

#COVID-19: Are We Protected From Cyber Risks?

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Over 300 million office workers globally are estimated to be performing their duties at home as per figures of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and Boston Consulting Group.

Employees are logging into different sites, attending virtual meetings, and accessing sensitive company data via the internet leaving them exposed to higher cyber risks.

While digital tools offer excellent support for remote workers, this unprecedented shifting of work patterns on such a massive scale will pave the way for cyber risks.

Are our governments and companies adequately prepared for the changes in cybersecurity risk?

It’s an unfortunate reality that in such times of humanitarian crisis, we can afford to speak about cybersecurity. We have observed several warning signs.

As #COVID-19 broke out, branded website and domain names began to mushroom. Cybercriminals have started using these domain names to masquerade as legitimate $COVID-19 information sites.

They are also sending phishing emails that appear to come from legitimate organizations such as the Rwanda Biomedical Centre and the World Health Organization, but that actually contain malicious links or attachments.

In one case, social media users such as WhatsApp continue receiving messages offering a link to a purported Telecom free data offer during this #COVID-19 pandemic as many people are at home and yawning for data bundles especially the youth and other vulnerable persons struggling to keep abreast of information.

But when the link is followed, whoever clicked on the link purporting to be a #COVID-19 free data bundle offer from a renown telecom company were redirected to enter user credentials and asked to share the phishing message to other social media users, giving cybercriminals access to individual private email accounts and details as well as reaching a larger audience at the easiest path of all.

By implementing a number of practical training, process, and technology measures, organizations can avoid adding a cyber-crisis to the challenges associated with #COVID-19.

As they work at home, instead of speaking with IT and cybersecurity help desks via an internal phone system, workers will resort to the use of their mobile phones as the only available mechanism which per se is vulnerable to hacking.

Warnings to heed

Intelligence and Security agencies understand that, the cyber risk has never been at its most peak as it is now.

FBI has issued a warning about Kwampirs malware targeting supply chains including the healthcare industry – Kwampirs is a backdoor Trojan that grants remote computer access to attackers.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is also warning hospitals to watch out for sophisticated ransomware attacks that could target them through their VPNs and other network devices.

The company has already sent targeted notifications to dozens of hospitals around the world who are at the risk of falling prey to cyber fraud.

Rwanda Information Society Authority (RISA) has cautioned the government on reliance on such open-source video conferencing apps and warned against possible vulnerability to cyber scamming by a number of fraudsters operating online globally.

The massive shifting to remote working can put existing infrastructure and security measures to new and extreme tests.

Remote working has been a growing trend for a while, IT and cybersecurity professionals at most companies have worked diligently over the years to safeguard their systems, but very ever anticipated the scale and suddenness of this transformation. So, do companies have adequate infrastructure in place to support it?

What to avoid?

Do not just click on links in emails and other untrusted sources. If you see the email as legitimate, whether from a third-party retailer or primary retailer, go to the site and browse directly.

Any notification or service offering which was referenced to in the email, if valid, will be available via regular log on.

Never rush to open the attachments. Retailers will not prefer sending emails with attachments. If you’re doubting, please cast the doubt and contact the seller directly and ask whether the email with the attachment was truly sent from them.

Never disclose personal information over the phone or in an email unless completely sure of the destined recipient.

Social engineering refers to process of deceiving/enticing individuals into providing their personal information/data to seemingly trusted agents who turn out to be malicious actors.

So do not fall prey to this, just because they may have some of your information does not mean they are legitimate.

Whenever managing your data, set secure passwords and don’t share them with anyone. When choosing your password avoid using common words, phrases, or personal information, and update regularly.

So, what next?

The necessary technologies, digital tools, and procedures for mitigating the cybersecurity threat are available, governments and corporate agencies should invest heavily in protecting their data as one way of mitigating the effects of COVID-19 pandemic.

Most importantly, have an incident response plan in place in the unfortunate event your network’s cybersecurity is breached. This plan should include contact information of insurers, and a rapid investigation and response team to mitigate the damage of data breach.

Franklin S AMANYA is a Socio-Economic Commentator in Kigali and an MBA (Strategic Management) Student at Mount Kenya University.

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CORONA VIRUS

Abolish Covid Certificate Travel Rule, Says African Airlines Association

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Covid-19 certificate may not be necessary for passengers intending to travel across the African continent and thus the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) wants states to abolish it.

AFRAA says the travel industry is reeling from the adverse impact of the re-introduction of travel restrictions and implementation of blanket travel bans since the onset of the Omicron variant.

The airline lobby also wants governments and stakeholders to harmonise the health protocols, reconsider the bans and adopt a risk-based approach in line with the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.

“States should not impose Covid-19 vaccination certificates as a mandatory travel entry and exit requirement until there is satisfactory access to vaccines globally, reasonable vaccination coverage is attained, and sufficient guidance on the use of the vaccine for travel is available based on recommendations of the WHO,” said AFRAA secretary general, Abdérahmane Berthé.

He said 2021 marked the dawn of recovery with positive trends in air transport activity being witnesses across the globe pointing out that as of October 2021, African airlines had reopened 81.3% of their international routes that had been closed due to the pandemic.

“African cargo capacity grew by 33% since 2019 and cargo load factors improved by 9% from pre-pandemic levels,” he said.

“The travel restrictions and blanket bans are a huge risk to the gains made in the recovery of the travel ecosystem. Furthermore, air transport connectivity and economic sustainability of airlines’ operations will be negatively impacted.”

AFRAA, he said, recognises that a risk-based approach and the safe reopening of borders are critical for the efficient restart of aviation but urged the governments to remove border restrictions and open their markets to restart the industry.

AFRAA recommends that States continue with pre-departure testing until vaccines become widespread, with States transitioning to the use of Rapid Antigen Testing as an alternative to PCR, some of which have been proven to have similar reliability to PCR, is significantly cheaper and takes within 30 minutes for results.

To address credibility of test/vaccination certificates, AFRAA wants Governments to continue to adopt digital Covid-19 test/vaccination certificates wherever possible as verifiable health credentials and as a trusted platform for traveler information.

The agency wants States to implement rapid roll-out of vaccines across the continent to facilitate the restart of economies and Air Transport.

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CORONA VIRUS

Confusion Surrounding Full Vaccination Explained

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Since the outbreak of Covid-19, many people are wondering how many jabs should one receive to be regarded as a fully vaccinated person due to the fact the vaccinations seem endless.

Nonetheless, it has emerged globally that for a person to be fully vaccinated he or she must get a booster vaccine.

According to the Ministry of Health recent updates, a booster shot is a must for those who received the first and second shot so as to boost their immunity.

As a result, the full protection of Covid-19 is now principle for Rwandans living abroad and all outgoing passengers according to the Rwanda Biomedical Centre.

“For a person to be fully vaccinated is a principle for Rwandans going out,” the Rwanda Biomedical Centre forewarned unvaccinated travelers.

Amidst these, there is a concern of mixing jabs which medical personnel assures has no side effects, which the Ministry of Health cleared airs that boosters are approved by Rwanda Biomedical Centre, Rwanda FDA and the World Health Organization, therefore that mixing vaccines offer greater protection.

The US Food and Drug authority in a press release on Monday, said that “the single booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine provides continued protection against COVID-19 and the associated serious consequences that can occur including hospitalization and death.”

In addition, the agency determined that more than 6, 300 individuals 12 through 15 years of age who received a booster dose of the vaccine at least 5 months following completion of the primary two-dose vaccination series were safe.

Globally, a number of countries are advising their citizens to have booster vaccines to strengthen their immunity.

For instance, the government of Singapore has confirmed that beginning with 14 February 2022, any person who didn’t get booster Covid-19 will lose vaccination status.

The Singaporean Ministry of Health warned that individuals should take their booster vaccination from around five months after completing the primary vaccination after 9 months.

The Ministry wrote; “Upon receiving their booster, they will continue to be considered as fully vaccinated beyond 270 days.”

The European countries under the EU have also urged their citizens to get booster Covid-19 as a way of getting fully vaccinated as the only way of protection.

“We urge all EU citizens to get fully vaccinated and follow the recommendations on booster vaccination,” the EU Medicine Agency writes.

Meanwhile, the Israel Government is inoculating the fourth Covid-19 vaccine on health workers as a demonstration to see whether the second round of boosters can help to contain the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

However, some like the US, it’s too early for them to discuss potential booster dose of Coronavirus vaccine for most people

“I think it’s early to be talking about a fourth dose,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told reporters.

 

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CORONA VIRUS

Rwanda Resuces Time For Booster Vaccine Jabs To Three Months

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The Ministry of Health has announced that people who received the second dose in the last three months can now get the Covid-19 booster vaccine instead of waiting for six months.

The announcement has opened doors to all recipients who received all doses but were waiting six months to get the booster vaccine.

 “The waiting time for the Covid-19 booster dose has been reduced to three months from six months. Rwandans who meet these criteria are encouraged to get a booster shot at their nearest health Centre or vaccinate,” the announcement reads.

The Covid-19 booster vaccines increase the immunity against the new variant.

The covid-19 booster vaccine was introduced last month by the Ministry of Health to people who were given two doses of vaccines.   

Meanwhile, medical research has indicated that after six months, the immunity provided by the Covid-19 starts to shrink and it requires a booster vaccine for full immunity.

The Minister of State, in Charge of Primary Health Care, Tharcisse Mpunga, says that the booster Covid-19 will be given starting Thursday.   

“The Ministry of Health will start the program of giving booster vaccines in the city of Kigali beginning with the elderly from 50 years and above and 30 to 49-year-old with chronic diseases or those who have diseases that can reduce their immunity as well as the health workers.”

Mpunga said the immunization will take place in health centers, district hospitals and other vaccinations centers. “It will be done in stages, starting with the City of Kigali but other areas will follow soon,” Mpunga added.

Vaccines like Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca and Sinopharm jabs are administered twice while Johnson & Johnson are administered once.

Experts have already shown that booster vaccines are expected to be stronger vaccines than earlier ones.

More than 5.9 million Rwandans have been vaccinated and 3.3 million fully vaccinated while 80% of Rwandans received the second dose according to officials. 

 

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