James Saaka - Executive Director, National Information Technology Authority-Uganda (NITA-U).
James Saaka - Executive Director, National Information Technology Authority-Uganda (NITA-U).

Cyber security experts from the East Africa region will from 6th to 7th September, 2018 meet in Kampala to attend the 7th annual edition of the East Africa Cyber Defence conference that is co-organized by the NRD Cyber Security and the National Information Technology Authority Uganda (NITA Uganda) that will focus its discussion on how the 5 East African member states can prepare for cyber attacks.

The two day conference is expected to attract about 150 cyber security professionals along with policy makers and representatives from Critical Infrastructure operators.

As of 2017, cyber attacks are on many occasions not an institutional, but national and even regional issue as cyber incidents can have great consequences to both the citizenry and the economy.

The unfortunate occurrence of cyber crisis in critical sectors such as finance, transport, public health, etc. can have disastrous effects and even lead to crisis at a national level, hence affecting the whole society. Sub-Saharan Africa’s economic growth is projected to reach 3.1% by the end of 2018, and to average 3.6% in 2020 as reported by Africa’s Pulse, a bi-annual analysis of the state of African economies conducted by the World Bank.

Leapfrogging over old technologies and business models Western countries took decades to get used to, African countries are improving in their adoption of technology in carrying out ordinary day-to-day tasks. This fast pace absorption of technologies, the rapidly increasing usage of cloud-based solutions as well as the increasing economic gains are bringing new challenges to securing the cyber environment in East Africa.

According to 2017 Cyber Security report, Uganda loses nearly USD$42m (about UGX158 billion) annually to cyber attacks, the losses are reported to be higher in neighboring countries.

The conference will be addressing how organizations, which are in particularly prone to cyber incidents, should be preparing and how they should effectively handle the crisis in case of its occurrence.

NRD Cyber Security CEO, Vilius Benetis, was very enthusiastic about the progress East Africa region has made so far. In a statement Vilius said, the most effective way to prevent cyber attacks, is to be ahead by having good visibility of potential threats and a plan of how to react adequately.

“It is great to see that the region is already taking steps forward as the countries start thinking and talking about preparation before the actual crisis occurs,” he said.

James Saaka, the Executive Director, NITA-U, shared that Government of Uganda through NITA-U, established the National Computer Emergency Response Team and Coordination Center (CERT-UG/CC) to support centralized response for cyber related incidents as well as serve as a focal point for further building and implementing the National Culture of cyber security.”

Relatedly, Arnold Mangeni, the Director Information Security at NITA-U highlighted that Government has out in place the National Information Security Framework which provides for minimum security outcomes every Government agency and Critical Information Infrastructure operator is required to maintain. This includes incident response and crisis management largely focused on a prevention and proactive approach. He further added that collaborations such as these are key for increasing cyber security capacity for both public and private sector entities which is critical for any effective protection response.