Ms Hutton was very pleased that her investments in motherhood were bearing promising fruits for her beautiful 13 year-old had become the toast of her middle class community.
Indeed, Adwoa had been a characteristic ‘perfect-score achiever; very hardworking, disciplined and studious. She, indeed, was steadily treading the course towards becoming the neurosurgeon that she so proudly dreamed of.
“What else could a mother want from a child?,” Ms Hutton would often wonder in those joyous moments when her daughter would return from school with yet another best record.
But the future began to be uncertain for Ms Hutton after her chilling discovery that her daughter had been violated by a creepy intruder on countless times.
On that fateful night, Adwoa had left her light on for too long. Sensing that she might have dozed off during her studies, Ms Hutton went to finish off her nightly ritual. And then, it occurred to her to also turn off the power in Adwoa’s laptop. However, when the dark screen monitor came alive on her touch, the images that met her eyes shattered the perfect images she had envisioned for her daughter’s future.
Adwoa confessed later: She had been addicted to pornography for two-years! And Ms Hutton, who believed she had her hand firmly on everything under her roof had been clueless about Adwoa’s dark passion.
When she overcame her anguish and disappointment, Ms Hutton found herself a new passion: To find clues to stop those creepy criminals to stop corrupting the values of children like her beloved Adwoa.
Today, Ms Hutton and likeminded individuals would be pleased to learn that there is an assembly of national and international experts in town with the determination to address her concerns.
From Wednesday, February 10, more than 60 professionals including Information Communication Technology (ICT) engineers, legal experts, human resource practitioners, communications experts and academics would confer and brainstorm on issues related to cyber security and Child Online Protection (COP) and find concrete strategies to make the world a safe place.
They have come to join their Ghanaian counterparts from the Cameroon Botswana Swaziland, Uganda , Mozambique Zambia, Burkina Faso , Liberia, Sierra Leone Senegal and Nigeria.
Others are from international bodies like ECOWAS and COMESA, as well as private organisations like Microsoft and GSMA.
These experts are alumini of the United States Telecommunications Training Institute (USTTI) and are, therefore, being hosted by the Ministry of Communication with the support of the Institute.
The USTTI was conceived during the preparations for the 1982 ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in Nairobi, Kenya.
A visionary, Ambassador Michael Gardner, at that time, asked leaders of major, often competing, U.S. based ICT corporations to join together with senior U.S. government officials to provide diverse tuition-free training for qualified communications professionals, regulators and entrepreneurs from the developing world.
The affirmative response was overwhelming and, as a result, the USTTI was launched at the Nairobi ITU conference as a public-private, non-profit partnership dedicated to aggressively sharing ICT knowledge with women and men dedicated to making modern communications a reality throughout the developing world.
Since offering its initial 13 tuition-free courses in 1983, the USTTI has expanded its curriculum and by 2015 it is on record to have provided 84 diverse courses.
So far some 9,194 women and men from 171 developing countries have graduated from USTTI and are on record to be applying knowledge gained to make modern communications relevant for their countrymen and women.
The Internet is rapidly becoming the most critical infrastructure for the economies around the globe.
It is the major driver of change in the new world economic order; changing the way we communicate, do business, innovate and even carry the end products to the market.
Connoisseurs admit that the Internet has added a new meaning to life.
While ICT presents opportunities for development, it also carries a clear and present danger – a faceless setback that undermines the full realization of ICT for social, political and economic transformation.
The development and adaptation of ICT has led to the emergence and rise of what is called cyber criminality in the world.
This criminality in the form of cyber-attacks targets confidentiality, integrity and any available ICT assets.
Specific cybercrime trends include but not limited to, cyber fraud, SIM Box Fraud, Hacking, Botnets & Malware attacks, Data Breaches, Child Online Safety Issues, smartphone security threats, denial of service attacks, phishing attacks, website defacement and ATM fraud amongst many others.
Records show that on June 17, last year, cyber criminals attacked the Government of Canada website and brought many of the services down for hours costing the Canadian government hundreds of millions of downtime.
Ghana was not spared, as in that same year, 11 government websites were hacked by some foreign perpetrators.
Again, in June that year, some flights operated by the Polish National Airline were grounded after hackers attacked its computer systems, thus inconveniencing more than 1,400 passengers.
The list is endless as it involves existing and emerging cyber threats and trends whose impact on national and international security cannot be underestimated.
It is in recognition of these threats that the two-day capacity building meeting in Accra has been tailored to sort out the threats in the use of social media that appears to threaten the foundations of society in a liberal world.
No man is an island
Disturbingly, everyone could suffer the consequences of cyber crime; Imagine a nation’s vital utility or health system under cyber-attack-or the immediate shutdown of critical infrastructure.
Better still, just visualise a disaster or an attack that needs to be communicated by your smartphone, and yet the entire phone network is under attack.
The entire system may go blank as a result of cyber-attack. You don’t still get it? Again, consider an attack or computer glitch that disables you from accessing the ATM when you need it most.
Fortunately, the Government through the Ministry of Communications, has drafted the National Cyber Security Policy & Strategy (NCSPS) which forms the blueprint of addressing cybercrime and cyber security challenges.
The policy documents aims at creating cybercrime awareness whiles ensuring cyber security best practices across both the public and the private sector.
One of the central pillars of the document is the development of technical systems and processes to deal with cyber security breaches.
Regional and International Collaboration
As cybercrimes transcend national borders the cooperation among countries has become essential in facilitating investigations and prosecutions of cyber offenders.
Ghana is currently engaging with regional partners such as ECOWAS and the international community on developing and enhancing relevant protocols and treaties to fight cybercrime.
One of such initiatives is the ECOWAS Directives on Cybercrime.
In pursuant of this particular component on cybercrime, and cyber security, the Minister of Communications, with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) set up the Ghana Computer Emergence Response Team (CERT-GH) to handle cybercrime incidents and implement proactive measures to reduce the risks of computer security incidents, coordinate security incidents and make recommendations for mitigating and /or handling computer security incidents.
Likewise, Ghana, being a member of the 146 member nations of the International Multilateral Partnership Against Cyber Threats, (IMPACT), is benefiting from training and information sharing opportunities.
All Hands on the ‘keyboard’
One thing is clear in all of these: That government is sparing no effort in its zeal to work with other partners to deal with cyber crimes because it cannot win the fight as a lone ranger. And that is why the collaboration with USTTI is very significant.
In view of this, multi-stakeholder or collective efforts among different stakeholders; the private sector, telecommunication companies, law enforcement agencies, the judiciary, civil society and individuals are required to address issues of cybercrime and cyber security.
Child on-line Protection
Like Adwoa, children’s use of the Internet and mobile technology is increasing, and for many children worldwide, there is no clear distinction between the online and offline world.
To them, access to the Internet presents opportunities for education, personal development, self-expression and social interaction amongst others.
Yet, the increasingly complex online environment also presents risks to which children are especially vulnerable, such as access to inappropriate content, child abuse, child pornography, hate and suicidal sites, harmful interactions, commercial issues and overuse.
Protecting children online while enabling them to benefit from these opportunities has become a global challenge.
These calls for cooperation among all stakeholders: parents, guardians, educators, the business sector, civil society, law enforcement and governments.
While stakeholders can help children make the most of modern technology, they also have a responsibility to protect them against the risks.
The Ministry of Communications is implementing the Child Online Protection programme as a major priority of government.
Indeed a Child Online Protection portal has been integrated into CERT- GH to facilitate instant reporting and remediation.
Creating and intensifying the awareness campaign towards a culture of cyber security must engage the attention of all stakeholders in Ghana and the continent.
More so, building capacity of law enforcement and state security agencies; building a credible national identification system to facilitate identification of residents even in cyber space; and the enforcement of existing legislations are also key.
Additionally, the standardisation and development of cyber security best practices; collaboration with stakeholders and the involvement of private sector investment in technology driven solutions to address cyber threats and the intensification of
regional and international cooperation are necessary.
Standing strongly with Ms Hutton, the MoC and USTTI would utilise the rich and diverse experiences from capacity building conference to further the innovative ways of handling cyber security and Child Online Protection.
Patricia Dovi-Sampson is the Director for Research and Management Strategies at the Ministry of Communication.