Why the humanitarian sector needs to make cybersecurity a priority

“In the not-too-distant past, international organizations (IOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working on humanitarian initiatives largely depended on landlines and fax machines to communicate and convey data back to their regional hubs or headquarters.

Now, like most businesses, NGOs and IOs have invested significant funds in information and communication technologies to enhance their crisis management capabilities. For example, better and faster decision-making is achieved through capturing and analysing demographic data to identify vulnerable groups, online surveys have proven critical for water, sanitation, and hygiene teams in the delivery of population health services, and biometric-enabled digital vouchers have been instrumental in reducing errors and fraud in the payment of traders.

These changes make humanitarian aid faster and more efficient. Picking up these digital tools helps save lives. However, digital transformation has also made IOs and NGOs enticing targets for cyber attacks by criminals, terrorists, and authoritarian regimes. The reasons for this range from the purely financial – people in crisis make easy targets for scams and theft – to the political – digital is becoming another avenue to attack a regime’s perceived enemies.”

I recently joined with the World Economic Forum’s Centre for Cybersecurity to author this piece for the Davos Agenda.

This article examines the cybersecurity threats being faced by international organizations (IOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), outlines some key steps they should take to counteract these threats, and touches on what the private sector can do to support IOs and NGOs in responding to these risks & challenges.

You can read the full article on the World Economic Forum website.