Internet Infrastructure Security Guidelines for Africa Launched

Internet Society Reps From L: Dawit Bekele (Regional Bureau Director) and Michuki Mwangi (Senior Devpt Manager)

The Internet Society and the African Union Commission today unveiled a new set of Internet Infrastructure Security Guidelines for Africa during the African Internet Summit, taking place in Nairobi 30 May- 2 June.  These guidelines will help Africa create a more secure Internet infrastructure and are set to change the way African Union States approach cyber security preparedness. I believe these guidelines address areas that are relevant and specific to essential current needs in Africa.

According to ITU ICT Facts and Figures 2016, it is estimated that 25.1% of Africans are now online and despite lower Internet access rates vs. other regions in the world, there has been a sustained double-digit growth in Internet penetration over the past 10 years. This is due in large part to an increase of mobile Internet and in more affordable smart phones in the market and Africa’s young, technology-savvy population. With the increase in internet penetration in Africa, more and more businesses have moved their products/services online, therefore implementing security measures against malware incidents to protect Internet users becomes increasingly important.

Cyber security issues in Africa have been there for a long time but there hasn’t been a definite framework to guide on mitigating them. In fact, according to Symantec, a global leader in cyber security, there were roughly 24 million malware incidents targeting Africa in 2016. These guidelines couldn’t have come at a better time given that Africa’s cyber security environment faces a unique combination of challenges, including a lack of awareness of the risks involved in using technology.  Kenya, for example, was ranked the 69th most vulnerable country (out of 127) in the 2015 Deloitte Global Threat Index.

This is the first time such guidelines are being developed in Africa with the key participation of a multi-stakeholder group of African and global internet infrastructure security experts, and are the first step towards building a more secure Internet in Africa. They will help AU member states strengthen the security of their local Internet infrastructure through actions at a regional, national, ISP/operator and organizational level.

“Africa has achieved major strides in developing its Internet Infrastructure in the past decade. However, the Internet won’t provide the aspired benefits unless we can trust it. We have seen from recent experiences that Africa is not immune from cyber-attacks and other security threats. These guidelines, developed in collaboration with the African Union Commission, will help African countries put in place the necessary measures to increase the security of their Internet infrastructure,” explained Dawit Bekele, Africa Regional Bureau Director for the Internet Society.

I sought to find out why there has been the slow uptake in tackling cyber security issues in Kenya because as per the 2015 Deloitte Global Threat Index, Kenya lost approximately $171 million to cybercrime in 2016. Despite the statistics, Kenya’s cyber security preparedness is still lagging though critical bills have been drafted that will see the Kenyan internet space protected including the Cyber Crime Bill and the Critical Infrastructure Protection Bill. The problem with Kenya and other African countries is that we wait for something to happen before we can act. Other reasons given to why Kenya ranks badly like that includes low awareness, underinvestment, talent shortage and overload of data.

“This is another timely milestone achievement given the new security challenges in cyberspace, said Moctar Yeday, Head, Information Society Division, African Union.  “The Commission of the African Union will continue its partnership with the Internet Society on a second set of guidelines addressing personal data protection in Africa,” he added.

Implementing the recommendations in the Internet Infrastructure Security Guidelines launched today can only be successful with the collaboration of governments and internet service providers to protect the interconnected internet infrastructure while preserving the fundamental properties of the internet and upholding fundamental rights.

Get a copy of the Africa Internet Infrastructure Security Guidelines HERE.

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