Cy­ber Se­cu­rity Min­istry was long over­due

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Opinion/national News - Her­bert Marufu

PRES­I­DENT Mu­gabe re­as­signed 10 min­is­ters and made 8 new ap­point­ments in a Cabi­net reshuf­fle on Mon­day. The for­mer Fi­nance Min­is­ter Pa­trick Chi­na­masa was as­signed to head the Min­istry of Cy­ber Se­cu­rity, Threat De­tec­tion and Mit­i­ga­tion. The new Min­istry is man­dated to deal with the grow­ing abuse of the In­ter­net. Cy­ber threats are in­creas­ing at an alarm­ing rate ev­ery year and the abil­ity for or­gan­i­sa­tions and coun­tries to de­fend them­selves against full-scale dis­trib­uted at­tacks quickly and ef­fec­tively is be­com­ing more and more dif­fi­cult. In or­der to be safe and se­cure on to­day’s In­ter­net, or­gan­i­sa­tions must learn to be­come more au­to­mated.

This means be­ing ca­pa­ble of char­ac­ter­is­ing at­tacks across hun­dreds or even thou­sands of IP ses­sions and im­prov­ing their abil­ity to recog­nise at­tack com­mon­al­i­ties. With in­tru­sion de­tec­tion sys­tems and trained net­work se­cu­rity au­di­tors in place, or­gan­i­sa­tions and na­tions have a re­li­able means to pri­ori­tise, and isolate only the most crit­i­cal threats in real time.

Chi­na­masa’s ap­point­ment to the newly cre­ated min­istry was long over­due as gov­ern­ments across the globe are ap­pre­ci­at­ing the se­ri­ous­ness posed by cy­ber threats. The Govern­ment, by en­act­ing the new min­istry, has demon­strated its com­mit­ment to curb­ing emerg­ing threats of regime change us­ing var­i­ous In­ter­net plat­forms.

So­cial me­dia and dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies have be­come a new threat to the New World Or­der. In the wake of the Arab Spring protests of North Africa in 2011, a con­sid­er­able amount of at­ten­tion has been fo­cused on the role of so­cial me­dia and dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies.

The use of so­cial me­dia plat­forms has shown how col­lec­tive in­tel­li­gence, dy­nam­ics of the crowd in par­tic­i­pa­tory sys­tems such as so­cial me­dia, have im­mense power to sup­port a col­lec­tive ac­tion — such as fo­ment­ing po­lit­i­cal change.

As of April 5, 2011, the num­ber of Face­book users in the Arab world sur­passed 27.7 mil­lion peo­ple. Some crit­ics have ar­gued that dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies and other forms of com­mu­ni­ca­tion — videos, cel­lu­lar phones, blogs, pho­tos, emails, and text mes­sages — have brought about the con­cept of a ‘dig­i­tal abuse’ in parts of North Africa and South.

Face­book, Twit­ter and other ma­jor so­cial me­dia played a key role in the move­ment of Egyp­tian and Tu­nisian ac­tivists in par­tic­u­lar. Nine out of ten Egyp­tians and Tu­nisians re­sponded to a poll that they used Face­book to or­gan­ise protests.

Zim­babwe has not been spared ei­ther as since last year the coun­try has been un­der threat from the #Ta­ja­muka/Sesjik­ile, and #down­with­eGovent­ment protest groups among oth­ers. Re­cently, Zim­babwe wit­nessed an ar­bi­trary rise in the price of ba­sic com­modi­ties which was driven by so­cial me­dia-borne spec­u­la­tion of im­mi­nent 2008-type of com­mod­ity short­ages.

The es­tab­lish­ment of the Min­istry is set to as­sist in deal­ing with the grow­ing abuse of so­cial me­dia in the coun­try.

Dur­ing the Arab Spring, peo­ple cre­ated pages on Face­book to raise aware­ness about al­leged crimes against hu­man­ity, such as po­lice bru­tal­ity in the Egyp­tian Rev­o­lu­tion. Whether the project of rais­ing aware­ness was pri­mar­ily pur­sued by Arabs them­selves or sim­ply ad­ver­tised by Western so­cial me­dia users is a mat­ter of de­bate. Jared Keller, a jour­nal­ist for The At­lantic news­pa­per, claimed that most ac­tivists and pro­test­ers used Face­book (among other so­cial me­dia) to or­gan­ise.

He, how­ever, ar­gued that the sud­den and anoma­lous so­cial me­dia out­put was also caused by West­ern­ers who had in­ter­ests and neg­a­tive agen­das, that broad­cast them to fur­ther their in­ter­ests.

Zim­babwe’s de­trac­tors who are bent on de­stroy­ing the coun­try have re­alised that they have failed to ef­fect regime change us­ing their tra­di­tional modus operandi of strikes and demon­stra­tions and have re­sorted to so­cial net­works.

Min­is­ter Chi­na­masa, there­fore, has a mam­moth task on his hands. Like­wise, in Western coun­tries so­cial me­dia net­works are some­times the only in­stru­ments for rebels to co-or­di­nate their ef­forts and com­mu­ni­cate among them­selves.

The role of main­stream elec­tronic me­dia de­vices such as cell phones, emails, and video clips (e.g. YouTube) re­main very im­por­tant in spread­ing word about the coun­try to the out­side world. Th­ese too have also been abused. This jus­ti­fies the need for a min­istry which solely tack­les the chal­lenges posed by the var­i­ous cy­ber-ac­tiv­i­ties of the coun­try’s ci­ti­zens and other in­ter­ested groups.

Se­cu­rity Con­cerns: The ter­mi­nol­ogy With the per­pet­ual con­nec­tiv­ity to the In­ter­net through mul­ti­ple de­vices in­creas­ing cy­ber se­cu­rity con­cerns arise. Any­one can fall vic­tim to cy­ber se­cu­rity at­tacks.

Cy­ber se­cu­rity brings with it an ever-evolv­ing li­brary of ter­mi­nol­ogy that at times can be dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand. Be­low we at­tempt to de­mys­tify some of the more com­mon terms uti­lized to­day.

Cy­ber­crime Cy­ber­crime is the act of us­ing a com­puter or other In­ter­net tech­nol­ogy as a tool to com­mit il­le­gal acts. Ex­am­ples in­clude piracy, phish­ing, fraud and iden­tity theft.

Pwned Com­monly used by gamers, “pwned” is com­puter slang, mean­ing “own.” For ex­am­ple, if you’re play­ing a game and an­other player beats you he can say that he “pwned” you. In cy­ber se­cu­rity, be­ing “pwned” means that a hacker has gained con­trol of your com­puter.

Tor­rent Files Files that are con­stantly mov­ing across a net­work. Tor­rents are tagged so that any par­tic­u­lar tor­rent can be lo­cated from any­where on the net­work with the cor­rect soft­ware.

Mal­ware Mal­ware (aka ma­li­cious soft­ware) is a soft­ware file or pro­gramme that has the power to con­tam­i­nate your com­puter by in­fect­ing it with viruses, worms, spy­ware, tro­jans (mal­ware dis­guised as le­git­i­mate soft­ware) and more. Mal­ware can steal, delete, en­crypt, hi­jack and al­ter sen­si­tive per­sonal data. Mal­ware comes through the in­ter­net via email, soft­ware down­loads and tor­rent files. If you have fre­quent spam pop-ups, your com­puter is ex­tremely slow or it crashes of­ten, you’re likely a vic­tim of mal­ware.

Ran­somware Ran­somware is a type of mal­ware that locks your com­puter screen or files by freez­ing it, pre­vent­ing ac­cess un­til a ran­som is paid. This hap­pens mainly with large or­gan­i­sa­tions and com­pa­nies like uni­ver­si­ties, hospi­tals and banks.

Ran­somware gen­er­ally starts with the ap­pear­ance of an un­usual file or no­ti­fi­ca­tion on the screen that will not al­low you to use your com­puter, fol­lowed by in­struc­tions on how to pay the ran­som.

Ran­somware can be ac­ci­dently down­loaded from web­sites, at­tach­ments from spam emails, or from a pay­load (com­po­nent of a com­puter virus that ex­e­cutes a ma­li­cious ac­tiv­ity). Ran­som is asked in the form of money, gift cards and bit­coins so that the re­ceiver can­not be traced. Pay­ing the ran­som does not guar­an­tee your sys­tem will be un­locked.

To pro­tect your­self from ran­somware at­tacks, avoid click­ing on links and open­ing at­tach­ments from strangers.

Avoid any phone calls where the caller is de­mand­ing an im­me­di­ate pay­ment for a civil or crim­i­nal of­fence that they are claim­ing you are re­spon­si­ble.

Con­sider all of your al­ter­na­tives to en­sure that you’re back­ing up your most crit­i­cal data in the safest way pos­si­ble.

DDOS (Dis­trib­uted De­nial of Ser­vice) At­tack DDOS is a sin­gle at­tack on your com­puter sys­tem from mul­ti­ple sys­tems which have been com­pro­mised by mal­ware.

This at­tack cre­ates an over­load of in­com­ing traf­fic and mes­sages, caus­ing the sys­tem to shut down. DDOS at­tacks utilise bot­nets (ma­chines that have been com­pro­mised) through at­tach­ments and emails con­tain­ing ma­li­cious soft­ware.

meOnce a sys­tem has been com­pro­mised, the at­tacker con­trols the sys­tems, in­struct­ing them to flood your site with fake re­quests. The at­tack can last any­where from min­utes to months, depend­ing on how long the at­tacker de­cides.

Ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion from www.uknow.

Min­is­ter Pa­trick Chi­na­masa

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