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Let’s commit to building resilient cybersecurity architecture – Akufo-Addo to world leaders

The world, according to President Akufo-Addo, must acknowledge the pivotal role that cyber resilience can play in advancing the 2030 SDGs

President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has called on world leaders to commit to building a resilient cybersecurity architecture in their respective countries and, by extension, in the global space.

The world, according to President Akufo-Addo, must acknowledge the pivotal role that cyber resilience and capacity building can play in advancing the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

This Agenda, Akufo-Addo said, underscores the world’s collective commitment to harnessing the power of digital technology to drive progress, foster inclusivity, and uphold our shared responsibilities.

The President made the call in a speech read on his behalf by the Senior Presidential Advisor, Yaw Osafo-Marfo, at the opening ceremony of the maiden edition of the Global Conference on Cyber Capacity Building (GC3B), under the theme; “Strengthening Cyber Resilience for Development” on 29 November 2023, at the Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City.

Growing threat

Akufo-Addo premised his call to world leaders on the fact that there is an increase in “internet penetration and access to ICT tools”, and in effect, “cybercriminals are threatening our digital development with brazen boldness, and we can’t afford to be victims”.

“In the first half of 2022 and 2023, Positive Technologies, a reputable cybersecurity research organization, reported that the global financial sector was the most hit with cyberattacks recording 18%, followed by telecommunications companies (13%), government agencies (12%), trade organizations (12%) and the industrial sector (10%). A significant number of us present here today fall within one of these sectors and this should thus be a concern to us,” President Akufo-Addo said.

“Furthermore, Cybersecurity Ventures, a cybersecurity research and publishing platform, indicates that the damages incurred by all forms of cybercrime, including the cost of recovery and remediation, totalled $3 trillion in 2015, $6 trillion in 2021, and could reach $10.5 trillion annually by 2025. Online attacks and cybercrimes intensify the tension between institutions and governments and weaken trust among individuals,” the President added.

This threat landscape in the President’s estimation, “has become increasingly volatile as experienced cybercriminal groups continue to grow and create more sophisticated strategies and tools.”

“These challenges call for the need for governments, businesses, and stakeholders within the cyber ecosystem to collaborate and cooperate integrating holistic strategies that will address these complex threats,” President Akufo-Addo observed.

To this end, President Akufo-Addo underscored the importance of the two-day Global Conference on Cyber Capacity Building (GC3B), hosted in Accra, noting that as part of the goals of this conference, there will be the adoption of the Global Agenda, “the Accra Call for Cyber Resilient Development: An Action Framework”.

“This outcome document will call for the elevation of cyber resilience in international and national development agendas. I am reliably informed that this document will outline concrete actions that will strengthen the role of cyber resilience in enabling and accelerating sustainable development. These actions are expected to promote cyber capacity building that effectively serves the needs of developing countries as we embrace digital transformation as the cornerstone of our economic development.

“This call will further emphasize the need for strong partnerships, demand-driven capacity building, and diversified financial resources to address the increasing threats posed by cybersecurity risks to enhance coordination, promote collaboration, and mobilize resources to achieve comprehensive cyber capacity-building, contributing to a safer and more resilient digital future for all,” President Akufo-Addo remarked.

“I hope that we all support the outcome document as a framework for addressing both national and international cyber capacity-building challenges. I look forward to the outcome of the declaration that will emerge at the end of this two-day workshop and I entreat you all to contribute positively to the document to ensure that it contributes positively to global cybersecurity efforts,” he further remarked.

As a ground-breaking regulatory activity, President Akufo-Addo noted, “The Cyber Security Authority (CSA) in Ghana has commenced the process of licensing cybersecurity service providers and accreditation of cybersecurity establishments and cybersecurity professionals.”

Cyber security efforts

This regime, the President said, is to provide a streamlined mechanism for ensuring that cybersecurity service providers, cybersecurity establishments, and cybersecurity professionals offer their services by approved standards, consistent with domestic legal requirements, and international best practices.

“Ghana has taken a lead in this area because we believe this regulatory pathway will further provide greater assurance of cybersecurity and safety to consumers and give recognition to the cybersecurity profession’s key role in supporting and sustaining Ghana’s digital transformation.

“These efforts are in addition to the work that has been done over the past 6 and a half years and which has culminated in Ghana’s significant progress in cybersecurity development as evidenced in its current ITU ranking. The 2020 Global Cybersecurity Index (GCI) report of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) scored Ghana’s cybersecurity development 86.69% on the metric showing major progress from a rating of 32.6% in 2017,” Akufo-Addo stated.

“The GCI measures member states’ cybersecurity commitment across five (5) pillars, which are legal, technical, organisational, capacity development, and cooperation. The score placed Ghana 3rd in Africa behind Mauritius and Tanzania, a major leap from the 10th place attained in 2017.

“Globally, Ghana moved from the 86th position in 2017 to 43rd place. This rating projects Ghana among the best in the region and globally concerning cybersecurity readiness and the implementation of critical interventions in the country’s cybersecurity ecosystem. A feat we are proud of,” he added.

“I would like to take a minute to commend the visionary leadership of the Minister for Communications and Digitalisation, Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, and the first Director-General of the Cyber Security Authority, Dr Albert Antwi-Boasiako, for the exceptional work done, through strengthening partnerships and capitalizing on its international cooperation mandate to make this possible,” Akufo-Addo further stated.

Paradigm shift

President of the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise (GFCE) Foundation, Chris Painter, in his address at the conference, pointed out that the GC3B is an important moment to consider what the words of Kofi Annan (the late former Secretary General of the United Nations, UN) from almost 20 years ago mean today against the backdrop of digital interdependence. The words of Mr Annan were; “There is no development without security and no security without development.”

“Digital development requires a human-centric, sustainable, inclusive, and resilient approach where cyber resilience is understood as the silver thread for our connectivity that supports the attainment of relevant development objectives. Many critical factors converge at this moment in time, and we cannot afford to think of cybersecurity as a niche issue and continue business-as-usual,” Chris Painter said.

“First, investments in digital infrastructure, systems, and services are accelerating across the world. Second, development cooperation approaches are also increasingly relying on digital tools and solutions for service delivery, and third, with cybercrime and cybersecurity challenges becoming more complex and global, the demands and needs for cyber capacity building will only continue to grow.

“This calls for a paradigm shift. We need to ensure the full incorporation of cyber resilience in development cooperation and better integration of development objectives in cyber capacity-building efforts,” Chris Painter added.

Prioritizing Cybersecurity

Communications and Digitalization Minister, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, in her welcome remarks, said she was happy to report that Ghana raised its score on the 2021 ITU Global Cybersecurity Index to 86.69%, up from 32.6% in 2017. She added that to accomplish even better for the entire south of the Sahara Region, there is the need to seek partnerships and worldwide cooperation in the cyber security space.

“In the first half of 2022 and 2023, Positive Technologies, a cybersecurity research organization, reported that the global financial sector was the most hit with cyberattacks recording 18%, followed by telecommunications companies (13%), government agencies (12%), trade organizations (12%) and the industrial sector (10%).

“Africa is evenly reflected in this global outlook due to the borderless nature of cybercrime. In the second quarter of this year, the continent experienced the highest average number of weekly cyber-attacks per organization, with an average of 2,164 attacks, establishing a significant year-on-year increase of 23% compared to the same period last year,” Ursula Owusu-Ekuful said.

Reporting by Wilberforce Asare in Accra

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