While in Senegal last week for the 42nd meeting of ICANN, I had the opportunity to sit in on the Forum for DNS Abuse. Lanre Ajayi of Pinet Informatics, one of the first ISPs in Nigeria, presented a case study on Nigeria. Mr. Ajayi stated, “There’s this perception that Nigeria is the cybercrime headquarters of the world.” He further observed: Is there SPAM coming from Nigeria? Yes. Are there phishing attacks coming from Nigeria? Yes. But, as Mr. Ajayi pointed out clearly in his presentation, “Our law is very weak on cybercrime.” All that, however, is changing, he noted.
The Nigerian Parliament is on the verge of passing legislation that will make SPAM and other nefarious behaviors illegal and also provide for the legal intervention by law enforcement agencies. With such new laws, the world may no longer have to block Nigerian IP space or deny credit card transactions from law abiding citizens.
The irony here as it pertains to the ICANN event in Senegal, is that Senegal has one of the most progressive sets of laws pertaining to the Internet in West Africa, but has a very small corpus of case law testing it. That comes from education as to what is best practice and what is commonly accepted around the globe, and applying that to the law in countries like Senegal today and Nigeria when their Parliament passes their laws.
Here is where the ICANN community can help. At Verisign we are sponsoring a program designed to augment the training of the next generation of African cyber security experts. Starting in 2012, we will join with the U.S. Telecommunications Training Institute (USTTI) in Washington, D.C. and the Dakar-based Ecole Supérieure Multinationale des Télécommunications (ESMT) to train dozens of IT workers throughout Africa in critical cyber security skills. As Senegal’s and West Africa’s population of Internet users continues to grow, having these IT workers in place will be vital for smooth surfing in the future.
ESMT is a joint engineering school formed between 7 African countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea Conakry, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal that supports 1300 students of 20 African nationalities and has just celebrated their 30th anniversary. They are highly specialized in telecom and computer science including certification programs for many global hardware and software providers. It is the only Centre of Excellence for French-speaking countries in Africa that is dedicated to training, consulting and research of telecommunications and ICT.
During each quarter of 2012, Verisign expects to support two students coming to the United States for intensive in-person training, and to support the training of an additional 50 students through USTTI’s web-based program which will be translated in to French as part of this effort. ESMT will identify the best possible candidates for the program.
The one thing we have truly come to realize about cyber security is that the best system in the world is only as good as the people who operate it. Programs like this one ensure that the Internet will have the experts it needs to stay stable and secure into the future, including in developing regions like West Africa. And we’re excited to be a part of it!