Ghana National Cybersecurity Week “Securing Ghana’s Digital Journey” Remarks by Ambassador Robert P. Jackson

Your Excellency President Nana Addo Dankwah Akufo-Addo,
Honorable Minister of Communications Ursula Owusu-Ekuful,
Colleagues from the Diplomatic Corps and the U.S. Mission,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning.  I’m delighted to see so many friends, business leaders, and members of the Government of Ghana here today.  Thank you to the Minister of Communications for inviting me to participate in and support Ghana’s National Cybersecurity Week Celebration.  I also would like to thank Albert Antwi-Boasiako, the Cyber Security Advisor, for his good work over the past several months.  Through our joint efforts and the Security Governance Initiative, we are fortifying Ghana’s cybersecurity and capacity to fight cybercrime and strengthening the administration of justice.

We all know that cybersecurity issues can have far-reaching effects.  As President Trump noted in May, the United States must work with our allies and partners to create a “globally secure and resilient Internet,” as our economic, political, and civil societies cannot thrive if we fail to protect our information infrastructure.

Businesses, governments, and private citizens have come to depend on an Internet that is open, secure, and reliable.  Digital technology and connectivity are critical to our daily lives and we must act to protect against malicious actors that use the Internet to commit crimes.

Cyber threats come from state-sponsored actors, criminal organizations, and individual actors.  They can harm our security, do substantial damage to our infrastructure, and have an enormous impact on our economies.  And there are threats that target internet users like you and me.  A main concern in Ghana is debit card fraud.  Criminals target retail outlets – stores, restaurants, and gas stations – where they steal our PIN numbers for their own use or to sell to others.  Romance scams perpetrated via the Internet are also a real threat to ordinary people.  Almost every day an American contacts my Embassy to say that “the fiancé(e)” they met on the Internet had reported being involved in an accident and needing thousands of dollars for medical bills.  They sent the money and have not heard from the fiancé since.  These fraudsters, often referred to as “sakawa boys”, victimize people across the world and hurt Ghana’s international reputation.  The anonymity offered by the Internet requires users everywhere to be vigilant and take steps to verify and protect online information.  As we develop responses to identified vulnerabilities, criminals are already looking to exploit another security gap.  No single government or organization has all the resources and expertise required to combat the advanced and persistent cyberattacks that are being launched today.  A vibrant partnership between the public and private sectors is essential to the implementation of an effective cybersecurity policy.

Defending against the threat of cybercriminal activity requires a comprehensive and collaborative approach.  Ghana is collaborating with international partners to combat cybercrime.  Sharing technical expertise and implementing targeted training to conduct a critical infrastructure risk assessment to develop standard operating procedures for the newly created National Security Technical Working Group are critical.  Ghana’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) stands ready to respond to cyberattacks.  From the U.S. experience, I can tell you that staffing and resourcing a CERT is difficult, but it is also vital.  I encourage everyone here – public, private and nonprofit – to work with CERT to secure their networks.

It is also vitally important to foster a whole-of-government approach to effectively address these challenges, but there is no “one size fits all” solution to every challenge.  Ghana’s cybersecurity strategy must be tailored to Ghana’s own realities, aspirations, and goals.  It is ultimately up to the Government of Ghana, with input from the private sector and civil society, to articulate its objectives, define its priorities, and allocate resources to address the nation’s cyber concerns.  Ghana has already taken significant steps in this pursuit.  The government developed a National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy, which is a living document that can be built upon as new technology and attack vectors develop.

We applaud Ghana’s efforts to accede to the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime, an international treaty designed to address cybercrime by harmonizing national laws and increasing cooperation among nations.  This is a significant step in bringing Ghana’s already strong cybersecurity legal framework into greater alignment with the international community.  When completed, it will form a foundation for our robust cooperation on combatting cyber-crimes against citizens across borders.

Mr. President, Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen, as we combat cybercrimes, we are mindful of the great benefits that technology offers in connecting people around the world.  In fact, internet freedom is a right as well as a necessity for all nations and citizens around the world to prosper.  Cyber risks do not outweigh the benefits of an open, secure, and reliable Internet, nor should they discourage businesses and people from using the Internet and digital media.  The Internet is a powerful tool to express opinions, share information, and expose corruption.  It is also the backbone of the innovative space that we all know as the digital economy.

I am pleased that the Government of Ghana is committed to doing the hard work of identifying and addressing cyber threats to ensure the people of this nation can fully and more securely benefit from their right to access to the Internet and the fruits of information technology.  This National Cybersecurity Week Celebration is an excellent time to bring cybersecurity stakeholders together to not only discuss Ghana’s cyber threat environment, but also to develop innovative solutions that mitigate cyber threats and promote a culture of cyber awareness.  The United States of America is proud to support Ghana’s efforts to strengthen its cybersecurity capacity to enable Ghanaians to educate and prepare themselves through internet access to successfully compete in this 21st century economy, thereby lifting this nation’s economy to new heights.  Together, we can make our shared vision a reality.

Thank you.