As an Information Security Professional, I have taken a keen interest and followed closely the global reports of the Unisys Security Index (USI), for the past 4 years. Findings from the past few years have been very intriguing and insightful.
The USI researches into the most critical security issues faced by people around the world (excluding African countries). It does so by asking respondents in online surveys to indicate their level of concern about 8 different security threats. The 8 security threats are bankcard fraud, disaster/epidemic, financial obligations, identity theft, national security, online transactions, personal safety, and viruses/hacking.
The last 4 reports (2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020) have seen identity theft and bankcard fraud top the list (extreme concern to the respondents) in 1st and 2nd positions, respectively. Personal safety has also been at the bottom of the chart (8th position) for 3 consecutive years, except in 2020, when it moved to 5th position due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Disaster/Epidemic has always been within the last 3 positions (6th – 8th) for 2017, 2018, and 2019, except in 2020 when it moved to the 3rd position due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Detail findings of the past 4 reports can be found in table 1.
With the level of consistency in the findings of the past 4 reports, I have always been pondering whether the findings can be generalized: especially in the case of Africa and Ghana in particular. In order to answer this question, I was highly motivated to conduct similar research in Ghana, termed: The Sherrif Security Indicator (TSSI). Thus, TSSI is the Ghana version of the USI.
|RANK||2017 FINDINGS||2018 FINDINGS||2019 FINDINGS||2020 FINDINGS|
|1||Identity Theft (65%)||Identity Theft (68%)||Identity Theft (69%)||Identity Theft (65%)|
|2||Bankcard Fraud (64%)||Bankcard Fraud (66%)||Bankcard Fraud (66%)||Bankcard Fraud (64%)|
|3||National Security (59%)||Virus/Hacking (62%)||Hacking/Viruses (63%)||Natural Disasters (62%)|
|4||Viruses/Hacking (58%)||National Security (57%)||National Security (57%)||Hacking/Viruses (58%)|
|5||Online Transactions (51%)||Online Transactions (56%)||Online Shopping (57%)||Personal Safety (58%)|
|6||Disaster/Epidemic (50%)||Financial Obligations (54%)||Financial Obligations (55%)||Financial Obligations (54%)|
|7||Financial Obligations (50%)||Disaster/Epidemic (53%)||Natural Disaster (54%)||Online Shopping (54%)|
|8||Personal Safety (46%)||Personal Safety (50%)||Personal Safety (49%)||National Security (53%)|
Table 1: USI findings from 2017-2020
The maiden version of the TSSI (v.1.20) was conducted via an online survey. The survey was designed with Microsoft forms and shared with persons resident in Ghana via WhatsApp.
Out of the over 1,000 persons targeted for this study, 256 responses were received. The respondents were asked, “which of the 8 underlisted factors poses the greatest danger or harm to you?” The factors were bankcard fraud, disaster/epidemic, identity theft, inability to meet financial obligations, national security, online transaction fraud, personal safety, and malware/hacking.
The survey commenced on 28th August 2020 and was closed on 20th September 2020.
The result from the survey was automatically analysed by Microsoft forms.
It must be noted that, contrary to USI, no demographic data were collected as part of this study.
Out of the 256 respondents, majority of them indicated that bankcard fraud and personal safety were of extreme importance to them. Bankcard fraud and personal safety were ranked 1st and 2nd respectively. The respondents were least concerned about online transaction fraud and malware/hacking; which were ranked 7th and 8th respectively. Figure 1 shows the detailed findings. It must be noted that, the details in figure 1 concentrate on the responses that pose the greatest danger to the respondents.
Figure 1: Findings from TSSI v1.20
Although numerous analysis can be drawn from the findings; especially in juxtaposition with the USI, this article concentrates on a few of them.
The findings indicate that bankcard fraud and personal safety pose the greatest threats to the majority of the respondents, whilst malware/hacking and online transaction fraud are of least concern to the respondents. The respondents’ view on identity theft is in sharp contrast with all the findings of USI. Identity theft has been topping the USI findings for 4 consecutive years but finds itself in the 6th position in TSSI.
The vast disparity between the top 2 and the last 2 factors clearly demonstrates the magnitude of the respondents’ concerns.
Since the last 3 (6th, 7th, and 8th) factors: identity theft, online transaction fraud, and malware/hacking respectively, are all information/cybersecurity-related threats; it can be deduced that; the majority of the respondents consider information/cybersecurity as least concern to them.
The views of persons resident in Ghana on the 8 security threats are at variance with all the USI findings. The influence of COVID-19 on the TSSI findings may not be significant.
As the majority of respondents regard bankcard fraud as the greatest security threat to them, financial institutions need to ensure the security of payment cards. This can be achieved by conducting continuous awareness for customers, and implementing the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS); in line with the Bank of Ghana Cyber and Information Security Directive.
My sincere appreciation goes to all the respondents in TSSI, and Unisys Corporation for its consistent effort in sharing knowledge with the world through the USI.
Sherrif Issah – (IT GRC Consultant | PCI-QSA | Trainer @ Digital Jewels Ltd. | Editorial Board Member, Institute of ICT Professionals Ghana)
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