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NITA, US, UTL reassure public on phone hackingsPublish Date: Jan 13, 2014
NITA, US, UTL reassure public on phone hackings
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By David Mugabe and Raymond Baguma

THE Information Technology regulator is moving fast to close any gaps that can be exploited for cyber-crime and data misuse.

National Information Technology Authority (NITA-U) is working with stakeholders in the communications sector and security agencies to develop a common vision towards protecting communications systems from accidental or deliberate loss of sensitive information.

Leonah Mbonimpa, the NITA-U spokesperson said over the weekend that the authority has developed the National Information Security Framework which stipulates minimum Information Security standards to be followed by holders of critical information infrastructure such as telecom companies.

“These will range from administrative controls such as national security vetting for all staff accessing protected IT systems to technical controls such as authentication and encryption of most confidential data,” Mbonimpa said.

This comes in wake of a report that British and American intelligence agencies remotely hacked into the country’s telecommunication network system and accessed conversations of high profile individuals.

The report also disclosed that uganda telecom (UTL) base station was remotely accessed to listen in to conversations of the Ecuadorian Embassy’s staff in London where wikileaks founder Julian Assange is presently holed up.

But Ali Amir, the managing director of UTL said the company had no role whatsoever in any of the events, nor was its subscriber confidentiality ever at risk of being breached.

“Mobile and fixed networks have come under the global spotlight in recent years, with many high profile cases – particularly those involving overseas security agencies.  Uganda Telecom is very aware of such risks and, in line with industry best practices, works together with our supplier partners and organizations such as GMSA to keep abreast of the latest vulnerabilities,” SAID Amir.

Amir stressed that they are on the lookout for any techniques that may be used to exploit networks, to proactively mitigate such risks and ensure that subscriber confidentiality is maintained and any threats are identified and passed on to the appropriate authorities,” added Amir.

Erin Truhler, the Information Officer at the United States embassy in Uganda said, “We know that reports of this kind have created significant challenges in our relationships with some of our closest foreign partners.

As President Obama has said, the United States is reviewing the way that we gather intelligence to ensure that we are properly balancing the security concerns of our citizens and international partners with the privacy concerns that all people share. We want to ensure we are collecting information because we need it and not just because we can. We are going to continue to address these issues with our partners in diplomatic channels.”

Mbonimpa said that Uganda is having foreign states help set up the country’s cyber security system. She said that the fight against cybercrime is concerted effort which calls for global cooperation.

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