South African Govt to rethink cyber security strategy

Posted on November 13, 2014 12:02 pm

The South African Government will soon seek advice from industry on a proposed update to the nation’s cyber security strategy, giving in to calls to review the policy in light of a vastly different technological landscape. The existing cyber security strategy was written more than half a decade ago. The aim is to increase the country’s awareness of and reaction to cybercrime incidents, and ensure government and local businesses used secure and resilient IT infrastructure. It resulted in the formation of the Cyber Security Operations Centre. Given the rapidly changing threat environment and online security issues, industry participants have in recent years called for the policy to be refreshed. The calls have been heard by the office of the President and Cabinet, which few months back hinted a review of the strategy. The Government is expected to complete the review in months to come according to a friend familiar with the matter, with the help of a specialist from within and outside the country.

The review panel will look at how to make public and private sector systems more resilient to attack, how government and industry together can reduce the risk of online attacks, and how to be proactive in preventing attacks on government networks and infrastructure. South Africa is currently lagging behind its G20 counterparts in terms of the relevance of its cyber security strategy.Your blogger thinks the review will be a positive development on the dated policy. The online environment, including the threats that South Africa and African continent face, has changed significantly. Any new strategy must be backed by a serious commitment to invest money and resources where areas for improvement are identified. In addition, genuine, widespread consultation as part of the review is essential. Cyber security is a societal issue that goes beyond government.

It affects the private sector and large parts of the community. Ensuring that these stakeholders are consulted and have a say is crucial in ensuring the best outcome for the ‘Rainbow Nation. ‘Several South African banks have indicated that they are looking forward to working with the Government on making the country a “hard target” for attackers especially Chinese. The longer term projection view for the cyber environment is negative, the threats are increasing, the capability of the people posing those threats is increasing and evolving, and at the same time there’s been lots of media reporting about surveillance programs, and they have an adverse impact on online trust. Those factors have the threat to undermine the development of the digital economy. A number of areas like public and private sector collaboration, information sharing, and crisis planning in particular, will make it difficult target, after strengthening and hardening the cyber resiliency and increasing cyber literacy in the broader population. Cyber attacks in South Africa according to a recent cyber security report are no longer only a potential threat but they are occurring on an increasingly frequent basis and have eroded consumer and business trust and confidence in the financial system.

Contador Harrison