Monday, 2 June 2014

Cyber Security: Need for computer emergency response teams in Africa

Nkechi Isaac, media practitioner, recently said cybercrime, which is crime committed on the cyber space and/or the internet, is one of the fastest growing areas of crime.
Isaac further said more and more criminals are exploiting the speed, convenience and anonymity that modern information and communication technologies offer in order to commit a diverse range of criminal activities.
These criminal activities take in attacks against computer data and systems, identity theft, the distribution of child sexual abuse images, internet auction fraud, the penetration of online financial services, as well as the deployment of viruses, and various email scams such as phishing.
“The global nature of the Internet has allowed criminals to commit almost any illegal activity anywhere in the world, making it essential for all countries to adapt their domestic offline controls to cover crimes carried out in cyberspace.
“The use of the Internet by terrorists, particularly for recruitment and the incitement of radicalisation, poses a serious threat to national and international security,” explained Isaac.
The reporter also added that the threat of terrorism forces authorities to address security vulnerabilities related to information technology infrastructure such as power plants, electrical grids, information systems and the computer systems of government and major companies.
Accordingly, governments and major corporations in the African continent seriously need to repel cyber-attacks and recover the systems.
Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commissioner in charge of Information and Communication Technology, Isaias da Rosa stressed the need to develop a common platform within the African region to address cyber security since cybercrimes transcend borders.
“As a region, Africa must begin to cooperate to deal with cyber threats at national and regional levels. Cyber security is a global challenge and we need to fight it with a strong strategic view, keeping in mind that we need to coordinate and collaborate to better address it,” he said.
“The fight against cybercrime requires collaboration and coordinated effort among all stakeholders such as government bodies, educational institutions, business organisations and law enforcement authorities,” added Rosa.
Eric Tamarkin, Institute for Security Studies consultant, agrees: “To facilitate collaboration and the sharing of cyber threat information in real time, it is essential to have 24/7 cyber-watch centres.”
Africa should therefore develop robust Computer Emergency Readiness Teams (CERTs) to respond to cyber incidents as well as to provide technical assistance to hacked businesses and disseminate timely notifications regarding current and potential threats.
This means that the continent of Africa should establish a body to monitor and report cybercrimes across borders. This body should consist of experienced and well qualified people that can effectively handle computer security incidents.
Purposes of this body should be to provide response to any threat or attack in the cyber space and also to provide support in responding to computer, network and related cyber security incidents. However, to effectively combat cybercrimes in the continent, any approach should involve all critical players such as African governments, industry, civil society organisations and to large extent security agencies.
As custodians of laws, lawmakers must be well trained and sensitised to help implement legislation that addresses cyber threats at all levels. They must also keep up with evolving and sophisticated cybercrime threats.
They should help their respective countries to develop strong cyber security policies, strategies and standards to continually identify existing and potential computer related threats. Policies and strategies should strengthen international cooperation and ensure the development of continental road map that tackles this cancer and fosters economic growth in countries within and across Africa. Furthermore, cybercrime laws should also be updated and strengthened time and again. As the nature of criminality evolves, so too should the laws.
Since information is power, it is critical for stakeholders to raise public awareness about cybercrime – a plague that can ravage Africa and her citizenry.
 “Raising public awareness is equally critical and can serve as a powerful frontline defence. Africa should develop a patchwork of awareness campaigns, funded by both the public and private sector, and policymakers should fund robust multimedia public awareness campaigns, especially during critical periods such as the festive season,” Tamarkin said.
The African Union should push ahead its efforts to curb cybercrime. As the largest political organ in the continent, it should ensure that member states have strong information and computer technology institutions to train cyber security experts with a strong expertise in system administration, security audit, forensic investigation, information security and software development to deal with the future challenges of cybercrime.

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