Surging cyberattacks show need for robust security – Theofelus

Home National Surging cyberattacks show need for robust security – Theofelus
Surging cyberattacks show need for robust security – Theofelus

With the rapid advancement of technology, the global cybersecurity landscape is continuously evolving and through these developments, new threats emerge on a regular basis. This is particularly true for Namibia, which is classified as a fast-rising country with a burgeoning but often unregulated digital economy. 

“Namibia, like many other nations, faces cyber threats. In 2022 alone, over 2.7 million cyberattacks were recorded, highlighting the importance of robust cybersecurity measures,” said minister of information and communication technology Emma Theofelus while delivering a ministerial statement on SIM card registration processes and cybersecurity.  

She made these remarks on Monday in the National Assembly.

A cyberattack is defined as any action taken by a cybercriminal to illegally gain control of a computer, device, network or system with malicious intent. Cybercriminals may damage, destroy, steal, encrypt, expose or leak data, as well as cause harm to a system. 

Cybercriminals exploit vulnerabilities to steal data, commit identity theft, or engage in malicious activities to the detriment of the consumer. 

Theofelus informed the House that government is working towards bolstering the country’s cybersecurity architecture, hence the establishment of the Namibia Cyber Security Incident Response Team. 

Turning to the issue of SIM registration, the minister stated that this is aimed to address security concerns, combat crime, and facilitate the deployment of digital services. 

“The SIM registration process serves as a mechanism to combat mobile fraud, facilitate e-service delivery, and enable digital surveillance and interception for criminal investigations,” she added. 

As at 29 February 2024, Namibia had a total of 2 387 230 active SIM cards. Out of these, 1 687 742 SIM cards have been successfully registered, representing a registration rate of 70.6%. 

Theofelus stated that mobile operators such as Paratus Telecommunications (Pty) Ltd and UCOM Mobile Namibia (Pty) Ltd, formerly known as Mobile Telephone Networks Business Solutions Namibia (MTN), recorded a 100% registration rate on their respective networks, while Mobile Telecommunications Limited (MTC) and Telecom Namibia Limited recorded 76% and 54%, respectively.

She reiterated that no extension will be granted after the deadline of 31 March 2024. Failure to register by this deadline will result in the suspension of numbers.

“SIM cards not registered by 31 March 2024 will face a three-month suspension. Customers trying to utilise the service within this period will encounter a warning message, and will not be able to proceed. After the suspension, service restoration and retention of the mobile number linked to the SIM card are possible upon providing the required registration details. Failure to register by 30 June 2024 will lead to service cancellation by the mobile provider, requiring customers to acquire and register a new SIM card, resulting in the loss of the previous mobile number of that particular customer,” Theofelus updated. 

Late last year, Kamal Tour, acting head of cybercrime programmes in Africa for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC), advised that without a robust legal framework, authorities will be a bit confused when faced with the scenario of having to prosecute those crimes. Also, he highlighted that cybercrime is a technological crime and to fight it, one will need technology, equipment, resources and financial support. 

“It’s not only financial losses, as sometimes it’s also mental wellbeing, especially when children are attacked through online sexual abuse that generates a high level of trauma. At times, some of those children committed suicide, and those who are now grown up become broken adults who cannot be functional members of society,” Tour stated. 

Responding to the minister’s remarks on the SIM registration, Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) parliamentarian Elma Dienda expressed concern about the looming deadline. She also urged mobile telephony operators to venture as deep as possible into rural areas to assist isolated communities with the registration process. 

In a similar vein, PDM parliamentarian Vipuakuje Muharukua requested the minister to extend SIM registration to the end of June this year.