National cybersecurity strategy considerations

The Uganda National Cybersecurity Strategy (2022-2026) outlines a comprehensive approach towards enhancing cybersecurity across various sectors within the country. This strategy is built upon a clear vision and mission aimed at creating a cyber-safe Uganda, fostering a trusted digital economy, and ensuring the country’s cybersecurity readiness against evolving threats. It is structured around strategic goals and tasks, including the protection of national critical information infrastructure, threat preparedness and response, development of a robust cybersecurity ecosystem, enhancing cyber skills, and fostering international cooperation.

The Uganda national cybersecurity landscape is always evolving. Here as some considerations in respect to each critical pillar when refreshing the current national cybersecurity strategy.

  1. Engage with local and global cybersecurity initiatives and standards to contribute and draw from international efforts in the fight against the threats of cyber. While the Uganda National Cybersecurity strategy 2022 mentions collaboration with the private sector, specifically in the realm of critical infrastructure protection and cybersecurity ecosystem development, there is room for deepening this engagement. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) can be leveraged more extensively for sharing cyber threat intelligence, developing cybersecurity solutions, and conducting joint exercises. Such collaborations can enhance the real-time exchange of threat information and response strategies.
  2. Create a dynamic cybersecurity ecosystem: Engage with the top innovators in technology, academia, and industry who help you get and stay on the cutting-edge of emerging cybersecurity challenges. The Uganda Cybersecurity strategy could benefit from a more pronounced emphasis on fostering cybersecurity research and innovation within the country. Establishing dedicated cybersecurity research centers in collaboration with universities and industry can spearhead the development of indigenous cybersecurity technologies and solutions. This approach not only builds local expertise but also contributes to economic growth by nurturing cybersecurity startups and SMEs. There is need for ongoing cybersecurity hackathons to deepen private sector involvement in government innovation ecosystem over cybersecurity.
  3. Increase investment in the country’s cybersecurity workforce through sustained training, tapping diversified talents, and shifting the paradigm of cultural behaviour toward cybersecurity awareness and practice. While the national cybersecurity for Uganda addresses the need for cyber-skilled manpower, it can further detail initiatives for scaling up cyber education and professional training at all levels. This includes integrating cybersecurity into the curriculum from early education to higher learning, promoting cybersecurity certifications, and encouraging gender diversity in the cybersecurity workforce. Early talent identification and nurturing is critical to create a strong cyber workforce.
  4. Seamlessly intertwines a risk-based approach in cybersecurity within the general risk management framework. This incorporates routine audits of cybersecurity and the implementation of a zero-trust architecture. The Uganda national cybersecurity strategy should explicitly address the cybersecurity implications of emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, and the Internet of Things (IoT). As these technologies become integral to Uganda’s digital transformation, the strategy could outline specific measures for securing these technologies and harnessing their potential for enhancing cybersecurity defences.
  5. To engage in international forums and partners for knowledge sharing, enhancing cyber defense, and be part of global alignment of cybersecurity with global standards. The Uganda cybersecurity strategy mentions international cooperation but can further elaborate on how Uganda plans to align with global cybersecurity initiatives, such as the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime and the African Union Convention on Cybersecurity and Personal Data Protection. Active participation in these international frameworks can enhance Uganda’s cybersecurity capabilities through shared knowledge, technical assistance, and collaborative security efforts.
  6. Develop a dynamic cybersecurity workforce through focused recruitment, professional development programs, and collaborations with learning institutions. Developing a nationwide cybersecurity awareness program targeting citizens, businesses, and government entities is crucial. This program should focus on promoting good cyber hygiene practices, awareness of cyber risks, and the importance of securing digital assets. A culture of cybersecurity awareness can significantly reduce the incidence of cyber threats.

What and how to refresh – a case study

Strengthen cybersecurity defence over critical information infrastructures (CII) for ensuring that core financial and other interdependent systems are resilient against cyber threats. For example, to enhance the resilience of the bank’s cybersecurity defenses, ensuring both its own protection and that of interconnected systems against sophisticated cyber threats, the national cybersecurity must provide for:

  1. A thorough cybersecurity risk assessment focusing on identifying vulnerabilities within the bank’s network, systems, and software applications. This includes assessing the security of third-party vendors and the potential impact on interconnected CIIs.
  2. Adopt a zero-trust architecture, ensuring that no entity, whether inside or outside the network, is trusted by default. Implement strict access controls and identity verification for each request to access the bank’s digital resources.
  3. Integrate advanced cybersecurity technologies such as AI-driven threat detection and response systems. These tools can analyze patterns, predict potential attacks, and automatically respond to threats in real-time.
  4. Collaborate with other CIIs to develop and adopt a unified cybersecurity framework. This includes sharing threat intelligence, conducting joint cybersecurity drills, and establishing protocols for responding to cyber incidents that may affect multiple sectors.
  5. Roll out an extensive cybersecurity awareness program for employees at all levels, emphasizing the importance of security practices such as phishing detection, secure password protocols, and the safe handling of customer data. Engage with customers through regular communication on the importance of cybersecurity hygiene and the steps they can take to protect their personal and financial information.
  6. Ensure compliance with national and international cybersecurity standards and regulations. Regularly update policies and procedures to reflect the evolving cybersecurity landscape. Implement continuous monitoring of the bank’s systems and networks to detect and respond to threats in a timely manner.
  7. Develop a comprehensive incident response plan that includes procedures for containment, eradication, and recovery from a cyber-attack. This plan should also outline the communication strategy with stakeholders, including customers, other CIIs, and regulatory bodies.

Secure digital infrastructure, devices, and applications critical to our operations, including securing digital transactions and empowering our workforce and clients with cybersecurity awareness and tools.

Take a case of a large healthcare provider, Good Care Ltd, which operates a nationwide network of hospitals and clinics in partnership with the Government of Uganda. They manage vast amounts of sensitive patient data and rely heavily on digital technology for patient care, medical records, and internal operations. With the healthcare sector increasingly targeted by cybercriminals, Good Care Ltd recognizes the urgent need to secure its digital infrastructure, devices, and applications against cyber threats, while also empowering its workforce and patients with the knowledge and tools to protect their information.

The national cybersecurity strategy must provide for the security of such citizen records in the hands of the private provider. To enhance the security of digital infrastructure, devices, and applications critical to Good Care Ltd operations, safeguarding digital transactions, and promoting cybersecurity awareness among employees and patients. The following actions must be undertaken:

a) Infrastructure and Device Security Upgrades

Conduct an audit of existing digital infrastructure and devices to identify vulnerabilities. Prioritize the encryption of data in transit and at rest, ensuring that all communications and stored data are protected.

Implement secure access controls for all devices and systems, including multi-factor authentication (MFA) for accessing sensitive patient data and internal networks.

b) Secure Development Lifecycle (SDLC) for Applications

Integrate security into the development lifecycle of all software applications. This involves regular security assessments, code reviews, and vulnerability scanning to ensure that applications are secure by design.

Adopt a patch management strategy to ensure timely application of security patches and updates to all software and systems.

c) Digital Transaction Security

Secure all digital transactions using end-to-end encryption and secure socket layer (SSL) protocols to protect data integrity and confidentiality during transmission.

Implement robust fraud detection systems that use machine learning algorithms to identify and alert on suspicious transaction activities in real-time.

d) Cybersecurity Awareness Program

Launch a comprehensive cybersecurity awareness training program for all employees, focusing on recognizing phishing attempts, safe browsing practices, and secure handling of patient data.

Develop educational materials and workshops for patients, highlighting the importance of strong passwords, recognizing phishing emails, and securing personal devices and home networks.

e) Incident Response and Cyber Hygiene Tools

Develop and regularly update an incident response plan that outlines procedures for responding to and recovering from cyber incidents, with clear roles and responsibilities.

Provide employees and patients with access to cybersecurity tools, such as antivirus software and VPNs, for use on personal devices when accessing Good Care Ltd’s digital services.

f) Regular Security Assessments and Compliance

Schedule regular security assessments, including penetration testing and compliance audits, to identify and remediate vulnerabilities.

Ensure compliance with healthcare industry standards and regulations for data protection, such as HIPAA, by regularly reviewing and updating security policies and practices.

Uganda can further strengthen its national cybersecurity posture, safeguard its digital economy, and ensure the secure and resilient growth of its ICT sector against a backdrop of global cyber threats if the above areas are considered and updated in the new national cybersecurity strategy.

Summit Cybersecurity Research Team, 2024. All rights reserved.

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