South Africa readying its cyber defence

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That South Africa is toughening up its act when it comes to cyber security is clear from a Ministerial announcement this week as well as a visit to the CSIR’s national cyber security hub by the Deputy Minister of Communications.

Communications Minister Yunus Carrim named Dr Barend Taute of the Meraka Institute, an operating unit of the CSIR dealing with information and communication technology, as chairman of the National Cyber Security Advisory Council. The other members of the seven-strong council are Ritasha Jethva (deputy chair), Sizwe Snail, Collen Weapond, Mark Heyink, Professor Tana Pistorius and Dr Khomotso Kganyago.

At the same time work is progressing on putting into place the blocks needed to form a national computer security incident response team (CSIRT) at the CSIR as well working on specific projects for the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).

In its latest annual report, the country’s leading research and development organisation said one of the challenges facing its defence, peace, safety and security (DPSS) division was the protection of the country’s networks and systems.

This work saw Deputy Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams visit the CSIR Pretoria campus to view progress on the establishment of the national cyber security hub.

This is one element of the National Cyber Security Policy Framework.
“The aim of the cyber security hub is mainly to pool public and private sector threat information for the purpose of processing and disseminating this information to relevant stakeholders. The impact the hub will have is to provide measures to address national security threats; to promote the combating of cybercrime and to build confidence and trust in the secure use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT),” said Joey Jansen van Vuuren, a research group leader in Cyber Defence at CSIR defence, peace, safety and security.

The hub consists of technology formation, facilities, policies, processes and procedures as well as people. It promises collaboration with different constituents: the Department of Communications, international organisations, justice and crime prevention, civil society as well as private companies.

It is expected to be operational by the middle of next year with the most important component its CSIRTs. These provide incident response services to civil society, business and industry.

The annual report notes that the strategy, governance documents and service packages for the hub are in place and “this will put South Africa on par with many other countries by having a national CSIRT”.

As far as the military side of cyber defence is concerned, the report states that “commercial, off-the-shelf equipment has become an increasingly prominent feature of the military communications industry as a result of significant investment in research and development by the private sector”.
“In response to the worldwide trend, the South African Department of Defence pursued technology development to exploit the opportunities and benefits of incorporating the latest 4G technologies and accompanying off-the-shelf equipment into its communications and networking infrastructure. Aside from the benefits of higher networking speeds this move will also meet specific mobility and security requirements.
“The CSIR was contracted to develop a first, integrated, wireless communications concept demonstrator to be used on board armoured vehicles deployed in field. This system will provide a state-of-the-art, communication-on-the-move functionality for the SANDF, offering voice, data and real-time video,” according to the report.