Ghana Deepens Fight Against Cyber Crimes

Dr Edward Omane-Boamah, Minister of Communications

Ghana’s quest to protect itself from cyber crimes and its related activities has given a major boost following the establishment of the country’s historical Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT).

The CERT, globally known as Computer Incident Response Team (CIRT) and its portal, scheduled for launch on Friday this week, is being hailed as the surest and trusted way of safeguarding the country and its businesses from cyber wars or attacks. The CERT, which has been developed by the National Information Technology Agency (NITA), the Ministry of Communications and other agencies, is expected to be launched by the sector Minister, Dr. Edward Omane-Boamah.

The Director of Operations at NITA, Eric Akumiah, who disclosed this to The Chronicle in Accra, said by Friday, the Minister of Communications would launch the CERT portal and CERT team to coordinate cyber incidences and assist in resolving future incidences within the public and the private sectors of the country.

He explained that the project was being funded by the Ghanaian government and implemented by the International Multilateral Partnership Against Cyber Threats (IMPACT), the United Nations-backed cyber security alliance and partner of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Mr. Akumiah, who is also the CERT-GH Ghana Project Technical Point of Contact, added that the project formed part of a co-operation agreement between the government and the ITU which was concluded by Ghana’s Minister of Communications during the WSIS Forum in Geneva, Switzerland, last year.

He, however, noted that the coordinating centres of the CERT were yet to be ready and they were preparing feverishly to host them temporarily at the Ghana Multimedia Incubation Centre (GMIC). Mr. Akumiah was hopeful that by the end of October, towards December this year, the CERT coordinating centres would be moved to the National Data Centre.

A member of the ITU delegation, Sagar Mahendram explained that the main purpose of the CERT was to defend cyber war, but it also creates awareness about cybercrimes.  The more awareness the CERT provides to the constituent (the public) the more they take precautionary measures to protect themselves from cybercrimes, he added. Explaining how the CIRT team works, Mr. Mahendram noted that it could be made up of a group of four to six persons where they coordinate incident(s) and prepare report as they resolve it. So, this enhances their ability as they work together, he emphasised.

Mr. Mahendram, who is also a Global Response Centre at IMPACT stated: “When you escalate the incident you need to communicate with various people like the reporter, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), and things like that.  So, essentially the interim management platform will provide you with this platform where you can do all these from just a single desk, a single screen”.

When asked whether the telcos and ISPs were informed about the formation of the CERT, he said: “As you can see here Ghana has done quite a good job in bringing all the stakeholders the CERT will be working with which we called the constituency these are people who directly receive services from the CERT and actually respond”. Mr. Mahendram stressed: “Last week, they were people from the Internet Registry, ISPs, among others so they have been informed and also participating in the whole project.

“This is essential to be able to kickoff the operation because you know the CERT requires authority and some kind of relationship with all these entities, and what better are we to do that than kick off training by inviting them where they collaborate”.  Part of this training involves stimulated scenarios where you actually have incidents and where we can help Ghana in other areas they would need assistance such as cybercrime framework, and last but not the least child online protection.

So, it is really a very big project. As you can see right now, the current training that is going on this week is for the course act team-these are analysts, and people that will be deployed at the CERT co-coordinating centre. So, we are kicking off with the CERT portal.  The portal is very important because it is a medium to spread awareness. It is also a medium where people can report incident. So, it has a lot of roles.

Ahead of the introduction of the CERT portal and its team, a two-week training course is underway in Accra to sharpen the skills of persons who would be in-charge of managing the all-important centre. The workshop conducted by the IMPACT under the auspices of the Ministry of Communications drawn participants from the Internet communities and points of contact for subsidiary computer emergency response teams (CERTs) and institutions, including NITA, e-Crime Bureau, Fidelity Bank, University of Ghana Legon, Alcatel-Lucent, Tullow Ghana, Ghana Immigration Service and Internet Registry.

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