UBA Cyber Security Chief calls for collaborative effort in tackling cyber threats 


Pan-African financial services provider, United Bank for Africa (UBA) has called for stronger collaborative efforts in addressing cyber threats on the continent, especially among financial institutions and the governments. 

Chairing a panel on ‘Cyber Security from a Banker’s Perspective’ at the Africa Cyber Defence Summit in Nairobi on Monday, UBA Group Chief Information Security Officer, Sam Okenye noted that cybercrime is among the biggest risks to the stability of the financial services industry, especially in the wake of mobile and digital banking penetration on the continent, and reliance by traditional financial providers on third party financial services providers such as ‘FinTechs’.

“When it comes to the issue of cyber security, financial institutions need to collaborate as a successful attack on one is an attack on all as it undermines trust and integrity of all financial institutions,” Okenye said. 

Dwelling more on the need to incorporate strong security mechanisms when developing financial products and services by banks, Okenye said that because “the fraudsters have accounts in different banks so as to understand the different banking products and services, and then capitalise on the loopholes of such products, it’s important that banks, in the process of rolling out various products, consider security from inception.”  

Further, Mr. Okenye remarked that investments in cyber security systems need to be backed by human capital enhancement through development of cyber security skill sets and educating the general public on cyber security “We can’t do much without developing the manpower. That capacity building is crucial,” he said. 

He also expressed confidence in UBA’s information technology security systems across the 20 African countries where the bank has operations. According to him, “UBA’s leading roles in digital banking, and the introduction of ‘Leo’ chat banking platform, among other mobile products and services necessitated building effective cybersecurity system, which the Bank have in place.” 

African countries spent approximately $2 billion to counter cyber-attacks in 2017, and this amount is projected to steadily rise to $3.6 billion by 2020, according to a recent study by IT services firm Serianu. As a leading financial services provider on the continent, UBA Group is increasing investment in cybersecurity year on year. “The investment is necessary to protect the reputation of the bank and customer funds. On year on year basis cybersecurity is a big investment the Bank undertakes,” he concluded. 

In 2013, UBA became the first bank in sub-Saharan Africa to establish a state of the art Security Operations Centre and Forensic Lab to enhance the cyber defence capabilities of the Bank geared towards protecting customers transactions.

The Africa Cyber Defence Summit congregated over 300 delegates drawn from different parts of Africa and the globe to find solutions to cybercrime by enhancing continental cybersecurity strategies.