Thursday, November 30, 2023

Covid-19 gives rise to internet usage challenges

Since the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic most activities previously done in person have been diverted to online services whether they be leisurely or official business.

Societal activities such as health services, educational activities and even entertainment countries the world over have experienced this new normal. Botswana continues to experience increased subscriptions in the number of internet users. However, data charges remain a cause for concern.

According to Cost of a Data Breach Report 2020, global average cost of data breaches and security incidents in 2020 were $3.86 million. The report offers a view of data breach trends, demonstrating both consistencies and fluctuations in the costs analyzed over time.     

Computer Incident Response Team (CIRT) is an organizational unit that is capable of providing services and support to a defined constituency for preventing, detecting, handling, and responding to computer security incidents, in accordance with its mandate. The CIRT also coordinates incident response and provides proactive services such as early warning and information sharing, as well as General Public awareness.

In September 2020, Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) established a Communication Computer Incident Response Team (COMM-CIRT) to act as one-stop centre for monitoring and detection of cyber incidents within the communication sector.

The COMM-CIRT mandate is to serve specifically the communications sector.  Therefore, Communication Service Providers are the ones dealing directly with the COMM-CIRT, the end users will access the COMM-CIRT services through their provider.

BOCRA Director Broadcasting and Corporate Communications Aaron Nyelesi said “The main mandate of the COMM-CIRT is the consumer protection of end users of the communication services. The Constituents of the COMM-CIRT are all communications service providers.”

“Law Enforcement Agencies such Botswana Police Services and Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services are not Constituents of the COMM-CIRT. However, COMM-CIRT can share information of cyber incidents with them, where necessary, as some of the key stakeholders,” Nyelesi said.

The COMM-CIRT presence is expected to enhance security of the communications networks which will, in turn, inspire households and businesses confidence in the use of online services such as financial transactions and other services that require strict confidentiality.

Furthermore, Nyelesi said “The COMM-CIRT will provide early warning of cyber threats and the information will be shared with businesses and households through their Service Providers. In addition, COMM-CIRT will also provide consumer education and awareness on cybersecurity matters.”

“The CIRT cyber incidence monitoring is not invasive and does not focus on the individual user contents. Instead, it gathers intelligence from information already available in the public domain and internet space. The cyber incidents threats intelligence and vulnerabilities gathered by the CIRT are shared with the Constituents to ensure that the necessary protection is provided to the Consumer,” Nyeleni said.

The infrastructure of the CIRT itself is said to be built with security and redundancy in mind to safeguard against exposure of information and privacy. CIRT provides advisory services before incidents. It gives guidelines on safe use of ICTs and pass on intelligence shared by collaborating international partners on existing vulnerabilities. In the event of an incident, CIRT can facilitate its constituents to respond.

Following Government’s intensified efforts towards improving ICT sector, through investment in Botswana Fibre Network fibre to the premises. BOCRA has assured that COMM-CIRT is prepared to deal with this increase in internet traffic coming in and out of the country.

Nyelesi shared that “The COMM-CIRT has the capability and necessary tools for continuously monitoring the increased cybersecurity incidents due to the increase in traffic. The Constituents of the COMM-CIRT i.e. Communications Service Providers have the necessary capabilities to monitor threats within their networks.”

“Each stakeholder within the CIRT establishment is expected to monitor threats targeted at its specific area of interest based on its understanding of the intricacies of the area concerned.  In addition, the BOCRA will continue with the consumer education and awareness,” Nyelesi said.

For Botswana, BOCRA has observed a lack of thorough education in internet etiquette.

Nyelesi shared that “The major trend which has been noted is that most of the cybersecurity weakness are due to poor cyber hygiene and lack of consumer education and awareness. Consumers use weak passwords, store their password in their devices, share their personal data such as credit card information on unsecured websites, open email attachments from unknown sources, fail to upgrade the end user devices software etc.”

“It is very important consumers exercise due care in carrying out electronic transactions and ensure they protect their data.  The service providers will continue to ensure that networks are secure by implementing the necessary technical measures and upgrading the software.  When the Data protection Act comes into force, it will enforce proper handling and protection of personal data,” Nyelesi said.

The world is increasingly revolving around ICTs and the Internet, thus conclusions made are that the future would be more technologically advanced. Therefore, it has become more important that consumers start accepting and having the confidence on the use of the Internet.

“Cyber threats are a hindrance to this required mind-set.  Hence the need to invest in cyber security to inspire confidence in the use of ICTs. In addition, as more important data get stored online, it is very critical that the necessary cybersecurity measures are put in place to protect the institutions and home users,” Nyelesi said.


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