By Frank Amponsah
The President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, says his government intends to establish a National Cyber Security Centre to liaise with relevant state agencies and the private sector to oversee cyber security operations at the national level in the country.
According to President Akufo-Addo, the national identification system, the digital addressing system, e-payments, digital financial services and the various e-government initiatives in which Ghana is now taking so much pride, can be undermined by cybercrime, hence the needed efforts to tackle cybercrime head-on.
Cyber-security issues, the President indicated have become national security threats, and that Ghana cannot fully reap the digital dividends, associated with her adoption of ICT as a means of socio-economic transformation, if the country fails to mitigate both existing and emerging cyber security threats.
President Akufo-Addo made this known yesterday at the opening of the National Cyber-Security Week, and the inauguration of the National Cyber-Security Inter-Ministerial Advisory Council, at the Accra International Conference Centre, in Accra.
He told the gathering that his government is undertaking specific policy and practical intervention initiatives, including capacity building, international co-operation, judicial enforcement of cybercrime legislations, and implementation of technical standards and safeguards to combat the scourge.
According to him, the survival of the economy, and its critical systems such as power, telecommunication, financial sector, government services and the entire social and security system, is dependent on the ability of government to protect and secure ICT assets and systems.
The President averred that “An electronically savvy bank robber, sitting at a computer that hacks into the bank’s system, can and does regularly cause more chaos and more damage, than the old robbers with their guns. The IT savvy bank robber does not even need to be in the same geographic space as the bank, and, in truth, the bank records are also probably in the clouds, and not in the geographic space we identify as the bank.”
He also averred that it is critical that those in charge of protecting our ICT security are well equipped with the knowledge and the expertise to do so saying, “The tools and competencies with which we fight crime must necessarily, therefore, change. We need to train and have a well-equipped corps of cybercrime fighters, but we should go further than that.”
According to him, it is no exaggeration to state that those who control the cyber space control the world and that the many wonders of technology come with attendant dangers which cannot be overlooked.
“Now we know that a bank robber need never take a gun into the banking hall or dig underground tunnels into the vault,” he said.
It is for this reason, the President noted, that in July this year, he requested the Minister for Communications, Hon. Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, MP, to oversee the implementation of Ghana’s National Cyber Security Policy & Strategy (NCSPS).
“This has led to our adoption of a multi-stakeholder approach, as a foundation for the effective implementation of the various cyber security activities and programmes. The National Cyber Security Technical Working Group (NCSTWG) and the National Cyber Security Inter-Ministerial Advisory Council (NCSIAC) would be the critical drivers of our effort,” he said.
He said: “The danger, posed by a breach in security of our cyber-ruled world, can be even more dramatic. We have heard of the continuing complaints from the most powerful nation on earth that their elections were interfered with, and there were no invading armies or tanks.”
In demonstrating international co-operation towards addressing the challenges of cyber security, President Akufo-Addo noted that he signed the African Union Convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection, at the 29th AU Summit in Addis Ababa, in July this year.
Before the end of the year, he indicated that government intends to get the approval of Cabinet, and seek Parliamentary approval to enable it access the Budapest Convention.
Government has also partnered with the United States government, through the Security Governance Initiative (SGI), and the European Union, through their GLACY project, to support the country’s efforts at addressing cyber security challenges.
“We will also engage with international institutions and technology partners, such as International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO), Google, Facebook and Microsoft, to ensure cyber safety for our citizens, especially children,” he added.
President Akufo-Addo noted that Criminal justice response to cybercrime is another area of importance, and that training for judges, prosecutors and investigators, especially on cybercrime legislations and enforcement provisions, is a priority for government.
Government, he assured, will enforce existing legislation, as it works to review and update it, if necessary, and will empower the Data Protection Commission to ensure enforcement of the provisions of the Data Protection Act, 2012 (Act 843).
“We also intend to improve the forensic capabilities of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and other law enforcement agencies, including the Economic & Organized Crimes Office (EOCO), to enable officers to investigate and prosecute cyber-facilitated crimes,” the President added, stressing that “To improve our cyber security emergency response readiness, government, through the Ministry of Communications, is currently working on the establishment of a dedicated Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT), to protect critical national information infrastructures, and sectorial CERTs for the various sectors of the economy, based on international standards and benchmarks.”
The President also mentioned that there was the need to promote a cyber-security culture among Ghanaians so that in their everyday lives they would not leave the doors to their homes or cars open, nor would they advertise to the public where “we leave our prized possessions, we would never dream of exposing our children to known criminals, but, in the virtual world, we take these chances daily.”
These initiatives, the President noted, require financial commitment, and assured that Government will find the money to implement them.
“I have requested the Minister for Communications to engage with the Minister for Finance to ensure cyber security is captured in the 2018 budget,” he added.