By WANPIS AKO
AMIDST the advancement in cyber age around the world, regional Information, Communication and Technology blocs, and individual countries have swiftly prepared themselves well to address risks its users are exposed to.
Papua New Guinea is no exception. As National Information and Communication Technology Authority (NICTA) being an extended arm of the government in the ICT sector, it has positioned the corporate sector and home users well by way of decisions, activities and infrastructure to keep on par with the rest of the world.
ICT plays an important role in the lives of citizens. The real-time information and data analytics enabled by ICTs helps businesses make sound investment decisions; however, it is slowly pushing traditions of daily activities to the edge of extinction.
For instance, dreaded armed robberies and bag snatching sooner or later might become a thing of the past. Instead, cyber fraud could be executed in the comfort of one’s home or office with a click of a mouse on a personal computer (PC).
The Government has been keeping abreast with this development and made adjustments to insulate investors and citizens from hacking and cyber-attacks.
It has overwhelmingly passed the Cybercrime Code Act 2016 in Parliament last year.
The enforcement part of the law is still a challenge which the Minister for Communication, Information, Technology and Energy Sam Basil is set to address.
In his words, he plans to put in place a well-equipped and resourced cyber-crime unit within the Police force.
The government has not only been pushing economic advancement as its key denominator to improve the lives of its citizens, ICT is also on the government’s agenda as envisaged in Alotau Accord II, Vision 2050 and other development policies.
One such activity was NICTA’s two-day workshop which was officiated at by the Minister on his first official engagement after taking office a fortnight ago.
Its purpose was to gauge multi-stakeholder views to establish a national Computer Emergency Response Team or in short CERT, a first of its kind.
Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC) and the Regional Internet address Registry (RIR) for the Asia-Pacific region are assisting NICTA to establish CERT.
Incidents of hacking and cyber-crime onshore and abroad have prompted NICTA to set it up purposely:
- to mitigate loss or consequential damage;
- in compliance to international best practices and standards;
- for internet security improvement and resource allocation, and;
- to respond to computer security incidents, report on vulnerabilities and promote effective IT security practices throughout the country.
When established, it will be called PNG CERT or CERT PNG. A working committee was established last Thursday with NICTA to now draft a policy for CERTs establishment for Cabinet to deliberate on.
With Minister Basil at the helm of the ICT and Energy landscape, CERT is expected to be launched either on Dec 1 or in early January.
The examples of incidents are malicious codes (i.e. malware), disk operating system (DOS), fraud (i.e. phishing, fraud site, fraud purchase, counterfeit item, online scam, unauthorised transaction, illegal investment, lottery scam and Nigerian scam), intrusion attempt (i.e. port scanning, login brute force, vulnerabilities probes), cyber harassment (cyber bullying, cyber stalking, sexual, religious and racial) and content related (i.e. pornography, intellectual properties and national threat).
Countless individuals and companies have become silent victims of these categories of incidents in the country.
Funding, training and awareness will be a major challenge for its sustainability ahead of the APEC meeting in 2018 and beyond; however, the Minister is adamant that he will work hard CERT established, and indicating and giving confidence to the 21-member countries that the government is ready to ensure delegates security-both physical and cyber is secure during the meeting.
Among others, cyber security and cyber-crime policing, reduction of high cost of internet access, rural electrification and telecommunication are at the top of Basil’s to-do list.
The government through NICTA has successfully hosted the country’s Neutral Internet Exchange Point (IXP).
NICTA has been facilitating round-table discussions with the local Internet Service Providers on its next course of action.
NICTA has already invited Google, Facebook and Akamai to host their servers in PNG and have each responded with a nod. This is one of the ways to reduce high cost of internet in the country.
As part of the government’s economic recovery plan, Basil has already indicated that he would sponsor an NEC submission for all state entities (except those who are using it) to start using Integrated Government Information System (IGIS) which will end up saving the country K120 million. The fee incurred annually is K160 million.
PngCERT will help mitigate cyber-related problems and consequential damages, and make PNG secure, safer, open and stable in the global internet landscape.
The mandate and authority for the establishment of the proposed pngCERT is where the Cabinet will draw lines to ensure no one is hurt or if not, affected to grow the economy.
In 2007, in line with World Trade Organisation and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, various interest groups in Pacific Region saw the need for a Pacific Island CERT (PacCERT) for island nations.
After three years, a working committee met and discussed and developed its action plan. In mid-2010, an ICT Ministerial meeting was held in Tonga and endorsed the plan. It was established and operated for a while until two of its staff left due to shortage of funds. PacCERT was disbanded subsequently.
Tonga is currently the only country in the Pacific which has an established CERT.
PNG is poised to be the next to stamp its name on that list.
- The writer is Press Officer with the Ministry of Communication, IT and Energy.