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CYBERSECURITY CONFERENCES

The 2021 Community Engagement Workshops

CyeberGhana conducts highly esteemed conferences.  Our conference creates opportunities for people who are looking for a career in cybersecurity. It is perfect for meeting and networking with security-minded individuals. The 2021 edition of CyberGhana's event was held in the following cities: Accra, Cape Coast, Koforidua, Sunyani, Takoradi, and Kumasi. 

*Boosting Cyber Engineering Workforce in Ghana* 

Cyber Insecurity in Modern World

The rise in cyber threats and cybercrime forces various industries to rethink cybersecurity and develop a cybersecurity workforce. Several factors have contributed to cyber insecurity. The overreliance on technologies has led to an increased number of threats to information systems. The adoption of distributed networked components is exponentially growing, with the potential for severe breaches, system outages, and adverse impacts due to a cyber-attack. Cybercrime is growing faster than any other related type of crime, including international terrorism and threats to the military. Unlike international terrorism, which takes a longer time to grow and evolve, cyber threats evolve with the rapid technological evolution. 

 

Cyberspace is an evolving and complex environment leading the inter-relationships and dependence among people, software, and services on the internet. As technology evolves, crime related to technology also evolves to survive. Cybercriminals constantly create new exploits to fit recent trends while constantly modifying existing attack vectors to avoid detection. While corporate IT systems have become more complex, cyber attackers are becoming better at detecting and targeting mostly weak systems. Nearly 40% of employees serving as Information security, data analyst, and management worry about the complexity of cyberattacks. Thus, the rising complexity of implementing and supporting security controls presents several significant challenges. Cybercriminals benefit from cascading risks of system complexity, resulting from weakness in configuration and ignorance or employees' mistakes. The high rate of cyber-attacks and the resulting impacts on businesses and nations across the globe create a picture of how insecure the modern world and cyberspace are. Companies will continue to experience cyberattacks at some point because everyone is susceptible. Although some organizations are making efforts to secure their critical systems, it appears there is no full-proof security in cyberspace.  

 

Ghana’s Cybersecurity Challenge

Indeed, a spike in cybersecurity attacks and breaches among critical sectors globally and in Ghana has become a concern to the government, companies, and the public. The rate of online theft, corruption, nudity, hacking, cyberbullying, harassment, social engineering, SIM Box fraud, mobile intrusion, etc., has grown exponentially even with the adoption of the National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy and the establishment of the National Cybersecurity Centre. Government agencies such as the Ministry of Finance and Petroleum Commission suffered cyber-attacks between 2016 and 2019. Between 2016 and 2018, Ghana as a country lost over US$200 million to recorded cybercrime incidents.

 

Admittedly, the global cybersecurity workforce gap keeps widening due to the lack of learning facilities and the high cost of training. This, unfortunately, makes finding skillful cyber-engineers are the real challenge. The global cybersecurity skill gap is currently at 4.08 million and is expected to increase by the end of 2021. The global cyber skill gap is underreported because studies did not include Africa; after all, most organisations have not created cybersecurity jobs. Researchers struggled to collect data in Africa for analysis. A survey conducted by CyberGhana showed five top cyber threats in Ghana- Mobile money fraud, Sextortion and Sexting, data theft, fake news, and child sex exploitation.

Cyber Workforce Crises in Ghana

Ghana continues to suffer cyber-attacks due to a shortage of qualified cybersecurity practitioners. Protection of critical infrastructure across all Ghanaian sectors is a necessity. Cyber and STEM-related education is an essential determinant of economic development and national security. Nations that have invested in STEM have experienced global prominence. Nevertheless, studies have shown that less than 25% of African schools and colleges run STEM programs. Lack of infrastructure, staff shortages, erratic power supply, and lack of learning materials feature strongly among the issues that have taken precedence over developing solid STEM programmes. Though most high school students are mature to take college-level STEM courses, the current Ghanaian high school curriculum doesn’t allow exceptional students to take college-level examinations until high school graduation.

Several factors have accounted for why Ghana lacks skillful graduates, notably, a lack of hands-on training. A few educational institutions are making attempts to run security programmes. However, these institutions are not integrating hands-on activities into the cybersecurity curriculum due to a lack of learning facilities.

 

 Additionally, some university curricula do not make room for frequent updates to adapt and keep up with the rapidly evolving field of cybersecurity to meet the specific needs of businesses, the cybersecurity industry, and governments. Another factor that has served as a barrier to the workforce and hands-on skill learning in schools is that some university systems do not entirely meet all cybersecurity education and training requirements. For example, some institutions do not have well-qualified instructors and learning facilities for practical and competency-based learning.

 

The 2021 Community Engagement Event

Cybersecurity Engineering is critical to ensuring that national and organizational critical infrastructure is protected, secured and safe for usage. Cybersecurity engineering is crucial to ensuring that system developers and users have the required knowledge and awareness to adopt emerging technologies in this digital transformation era securely. However, a lack of practical and hands-on education in cyber engineering has led to low skills levels, severely affecting the country's security and protection of critical infrastructure.

 

As a result of Ghana's low cyber engineering education capacity, organizations continue to rely on foreign professionals at some point for their cybersecurity needs in the past and present. For this reason, the Lloyd’s Register Foundation (UK), the Royal Academy of Engineering (UK), and CyberGhana (Ghana) are building cyber engineering centres in six universities of Ghana under the ‘Engineering X’ project. The project has successfully rolled out in the following universities in Ghana: Bolgatanga Technical University, Cape Coast Technical University, Cape Coast Technical University, Koforidua Technical University, and Ghana Baptist University College. 

The project is promoting teaching and learning of cybersecurity engineering to help bridge the cybersecurity skill gap. However, Ghanaians are not leveraging the centres’ services due to a low level of cybersecurity awareness. For this reason, CyberGhana, in collaboration with the Lloyd’s Register Foundation, consequently embarked on Community Engagement activities in February 2021.

 

The Community Engagement sought to sensitise the public about the ongoing NICESTEP Cyber Lab Project. The event was geared at increasing awareness about the risks cyberattacks pose to every consumer of internet products via connected IT devices. Participants at the event discussed threats in critical sectors like transportation, utility, health, and energy. Participants were pulled from diverse sectors, including transportation, energy, defense, manufacturing, education, and health. 

 

Another critical exercise strongly featured in the Community Engagement was Needs Assessment on Ghana's cyber engineering skills and workforce. A study at the event revealed that application security, cloud security engineering, cyber risk, and compliance management, SCADA and ICS Security, and cyber incident response and forensics are the top five skills needed in Ghana. A study showed that Ghanaian educational institutions are not developing programmes to raise the workforce to take these roles.

 

The support from the Lloyds Register foundation was used to support CyberGhana’s volunteers with the knowledge and research skills to play a critical role in facilitating 36 workshops and conducting cyber workforce needs assessments.

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The event served as a boost for encouraging the youths in Ghana to pursue careers in cyber engineering. The workshop has also enabled CyberGhana to build strong relationships with 12 businesses in Ghana's energy, transportation, manufacturing, health, and educational sectors. Eight cyber clubs were formed in eight high schools because of this event. Nearly three thousand high school students are being empowered to promote security through cyber club meetings, cyber and STEM education. Over two hundred university students.

 

The events have contributed to our mission to create awareness for a safer adoption and implementation of critical systems, adoption of emerging technologies, and promotion of STEM education at pre-tertiary institutions. The workshops have been impactful as they have enabled us to reach many ICT professionals and cyber engineering enthusiasts from universities and high schools. Participants are now equipped to integrate security and safety practices into businesses operations.