June 25, 2010 – Africa needs to take measures to ensure that it is not the weakest link in terms of Global Cyber Security, according to the Microsoft Chairman of Africa Cheick Diarra.
Speaking at the opening of the African ICT Best Practices Forum in Ouagadougou, he said that cyber security threats in the continent are very real and could harm the ongoing ICT revolution.
He said that according to their latest security intelligence report, 126 million samples of malware were recorded for the second half of 2009 alone.
He thus highlighted the need for governments in Africa to collaborate at all levels with the ICT enabled industries in their countries to assess and take appropriate counter-active and protective measures to stay safe.
Diarra further noted that it was imperative for laws to be carved out that would prosecute cyber criminals, and at the same time not limit the growth of modern ICT economies.
“The greatest challenge for Africa is that the evolution and threat to ICT are growing side by side,” he said.
The three-day ICT forum brought together more 400 hundred participants from 55 countries around the world, including 42 from Africa. Those in attendance included heads of state, ministers, ICT experts and exhibitors.
Among those presenting at the forum was an expert from the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK), who said at the venue that the country is in the advanced stages of developing its Computer Incidence Response Team (CIRT) to deal with any cyber security risks that arise.
The mandate, said IT specialist Joseph Nzano, rested in the hands of the CCK. Speaking on behalf of Michael Katundu the Head of IT at the CCK, he said that with the entry of fibre optic cables in Kenya, internet speeds in the country are much higher now, and so are the risks of cyber crime.
“Though the fight against cyber crime is supported in the Kenya Communications Amendment Act of 2009, there still remain various challenges,” he added.
He listed the lack of provision of digital certificates, inadequate policy, technical and legal capacity, and the lack of a National Point of Contact, which he feels is key in the creation of trust networks.
Kenya meanwhile is also in the process of drawing up a regional response team with Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda. The team will fall under the East African Communications Organisation (EACO).
Experts at the venue also stressed that the threat of cyber crime is global because the internet and ICT in general has become borderless. They noted that Africa is least prepared to deal with the threat of cyber crime and countries are just beginning to create legislation and structures to combat this.
According to the International Telecommunication Union, more than 56% of cyber crime is perpetrated from Africa, with countries such as Nigeria and Cameroun in the top 10 list. The Union says Africa needs to develop ‘weapons’ to fight cyber crime.
African governments meanwhile have been urged to embrace cloud computing as a way of deterring cyber risks and cutting down the costs of doing business in terms of purchasing software.
At a meeting on the sidelines of the ICT Best Practices conference, African ministers heard that they had a critical role in coordinating diplomacy, intelligence, law enforcement, finance and education, towards a safe and protected ICT infrastructure.
Cloud computing is an internet enabled system that allows governments and even corporates to create their own systems, using an assortment of programmes from the internet.
Director of Applied Innovation at Microsoft, Ruediger Dorn, says many users are familiar with cloud computing but the fast rate at which Africa’s internet bandwidth is increasing, cloud computing is a more accessible option for public services.