Ghana pursues heightened cybersecurity protection

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Ghana is heightening her fight against cyber insecurity as members of the country’s Parliament’s Select Committee on Communication met for a two-day retreat aimed at reviewing two draft cybersecurity legislation —Cybersecurity and Interception Bill and the Revised National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy.

The legislations are aimed at establishing a cybersecurity authority and a legal framework to effectively conduct cyber-related activities in the interest of the public and protecting critical national information infrastructure.

Ghana has already ratified two international conventions; the Malabo Convention (African Union Convention on Cyber Security & Personal Data Protection) and the Budapest Convention (Convention on Cybercrime) in recognition of the need for international cooperation to tackle cybercrime and improve cybersecurity from global best practices.

Speaking on day one of the retreat organised by the Communication Ministry through the National Cybersecurity Centre, the sector minister, Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful painstakingly catalogued some of the challenges facing Ghana in addressing cybersecurity concerns.

She spoke of a general lack of awareness among people who use the internet and the need for the creation of greater sensitisation “about certain habits that can become major threats to cybersecurity”, noting that inculcating essential cyber hygiene practices in the citizenry would address certain habits that lead to cyber-attacks.

Mrs Owusu-Ekuful further said a lack of domestic cooperation has also gravely impeded the ability to effectively fight cybercrime and address cyber-related issues.

“State and non-state actors need to effectively collaborate to tackle cyber threats and attack,” she said. “These include cooperation among government agencies, intelligence agencies, private sector actors, academia, among others in fighting cybercrime.”

The lack of a dedicated and sustainable budget to fund cybersecurity activities had been a major challenge, she stated, adding that a sustainable budget is crucial to be able to develop “our cybersecurity in a sustainable manner.”

Mrs Owusu-Ekuful further touched on the legal limitations in the ever-growing era of technology. “While the Electronic Transactions Act 2008 (Act 772) and the Data Protection Act 2012 (Act 843) provide some provisions with respect to cybercrime and personal data protection, there is a lack of a comprehensive cybersecurity law capable of addressing the current complexities of cybercrime and cybersecurity in the country,” she said.

“This explains why the Ministry of Communication, working with the members of the National Cyber Security Inter-Ministerial Advisory Council (NCSIAC) and other stakeholders, are introducing a Cybersecurity Bill,” she said.

According to a Cybersecurity Maturity Assessment commissioned by the Ministry and undertaken by the Global Cyber Security Capacity Centre of the Oxford University in collaboration with the World Bank, Ghana’s cybersecurity is at its formative stages, emphasising the need to build upon the current achievements.

“Our efforts, moving forward, will, therefore, be guided by recommendations made by the study,” Mrs Owusu-Ekuful said.

The use of the cyberspace and telecommunication networks to commit crime continue to pose serious challenges to law enforcement and security agencies. With the development of ICT and telecommunication services, the network environment has become the environment of choice for organised crime.

Consequently, the government has a responsibility to equip law enforcement and security agencies to fight these cyberspace and telecommunication service-facilitated crimes.

The introduction of the Interception Bill is expected to address the current challenges of law enforcement and security agencies while ensuring Ghana meets its international obligations as a state party to the Budapest Convention.

For his part, the Chairman of Parliament’s Select Committee on Communication, Mr Ken Agyapong said Ghana is not safe when it comes to cybersecurity.

“Whether we like it or not, cyber insecurity has become a thorn in our flesh and, therefore, it’s important that we deal with it once and for all,” he said.

Highlighting the content of the draft bill, the National Cybersecurity Advisor, Dr Albert Antwi-Boasiako said it looks at regulating the cybersecurity industry, sets up the cybersecurity authority; provides, among others, an international mechanism through which Ghana can receive reports on cybersecurity incidents and also send reports for international collaboration.

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