A national cyber security centre is to be set up in the next few months to liaise with relevant state agencies and the private sector to oversee cyber-security operations in the country, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has announced.
That, he explained, had become necessary because the national identification system, the digital addressing system, e-payments, digital financial services and the various e-government initiatives in which Ghana was now taking so much pride, could be undermined or brought to a halt through cyber crime.
Cyber-security issues, he said, were firmly national security threats, adding: “Ghana cannot fully reap the digital dividends associated with the adoption of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) as a means of our socio-economic transformation if the country fails to mitigate both existing and emerging cyber security threats.”
President Akufo-Addo said the government was undertaking specific policy and practical interventions, including capacity building, international co-operation, judicial enforcement of cyber crime legislation and the implementation of technical standards and safeguards to combat the scourge.
For that reason, he said, he had directed the Minister of Communications, Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, to oversee the implementation of Ghana’s national cyber-security policy and 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 NCSIAC will be the critical drivers of our effort,” he said.
In demonstrating international co-operation towards addressing the challenges of cyber security, the President said he had 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 said, the government intended to seek the approval of the Cabinet and Parliament for it to access the Budapest Convention.
The Budapest Convention is the first international treaty seeking to address Internet and computer crime by harmonising national laws, improving investigative techniques and increasing cooperation among nations.
President Akufo-Addo said the government had also partnered the United States government, through the Security Governance Initiative (SGI), and the European Union (EU), through its Global Action on Cybercrime (GLACY) project.
The GLACY project is a joint initiative of the EU and the Council of Europe aimed at supporting countries worldwide in the implementation of the Budapest Convention.
“We will also engage with international institutions and technology partners, such as International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO), Google, Facebook and Microsoft, to ensure cyber safety for our citizens, especially children,” he added.
The President said criminal justice response to cyber crime was another area of importance and to that end “training for our judges, prosecutors and investigators, especially, in cyber crime legislation and enforcement provisions, is a priority for the government”.
The government, he said, would enforce existing legislation, as it worked to review and update it, if necessary, and would empower the Data Protection Commission to ensure the enforcement of the provisions of the Data Protection Act, 2012 (Act 843).
“We also intend to improve the forensic capabilities of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) and other law enforcement agencies, including the Economic and Organised Crimes Office (EOCO), to enable officers to investigate and prosecute cyber-facilitated crimes.
“To improve our cyber security emergency response readiness, the 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 infrastructure and sectorial CERTs for the various sectors of the economy based on international standards and benchmarks,” he added.
Mrs Owusu-Ekuful said the Ministry of Communications, for its part, had developed an independent, sustainable multi-stakeholder institutional framework for Ghana’s cyber security, based on international benchmarks and existing institutional arrangements.
The overall goal, she said, was to develop the country’s cyber security capabilities to protect critical infrastructure and respond to both existing and emerging cyber threats.
The US Ambassador to Ghana, Mr Robert P. Jackson, observed that a major concern in Ghana was debit card fraud where fraudsters, referred to as “Sakawa boys”, stole from unsuspecting victims.
He said the actions of such deviant characters were hurting the international image of the country and, therefore, called for effective collaboration to stop the practice.
The UNICEF Representative in Ghana, Ms Rushnan Murtaza, said technology had become a life-changer when leveraged in the right way and made accessible to all.
“However, as we seek to bring technology to more people in Ghana, we want to ensure that children, young people, men and women using the web are not made vulnerable to pernicious issues such as online sexual exploitation, blackmail, fraud and many other abuses,” she added.