Telcos beef up protection for networks during 2020 elections

Dr. Ing. Kenneth Ashigbey and Joe Anokye Dr. Ing. Kenneth Ashigbey and Joe Anokye

The hacking of telecommunication networks which occurred in the 2016 elections leading to the disruptions of all telephony communications across the country, might not happen this year.

The Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications says its members are devising measures to provide quality network across the country during the general elections.

The assurance from the industry association follows individual network audit assessments undertaken by its members which led to numerous deployments and actions to ensure stable network connections across the country.

In 2016, the then Charlotte Kesson-Smith Osei Elections Commission (EC) boss, ahead of the declaration of results revealed that its network had been hacked hence had to resort to manual collation of results.

Aside the EC, many news portals including Ghanaweb and Graphic online also suffered the cyber-attacks.

At the time, National Democratic Congress (NDC) among other things mentioned the current Director General of National Communication Authority (NCA) Joe Anokye, as the brain behind the illegal hackings.

His appointment by President Nana Akufo-Addo, who had thanked profusely for helping him win the 2016 election at a public event ahead of the appointment, heightened everyone's suspicions about Mr. Anokye, who is reported to have worked with NASA in US.

But the Chamber in a statement dated Friday, December 4th, 2020 indicated that it is partnering with law enforcement agencies to facilitate patrol of fibre infrastructure routes across Ghana.

"Similarly, the Chamber, through the National Engineering Coordinating Team (NECT), is engaging the Road Agencies to suspend all construction works around routes where critical utility infrastructure exists for the next two (2) weeks to safeguard the country from potential network disruptions," the statement added.

The Chamber said it also intends implementing other critical interventions during the Christmas season.

The statement signed by Derek B. Laryea stated that "the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications wishes to inform the general public that its members are taking the necessary steps and measures to provide resilient network quality across the country as the nation heads to the polls on 7th December 2020 and the festive season".

It said "the assurance from the Industry Association follows individual network audit assessments undertaken by its members. The outcome of the audits has led to numerous deployments and actions to ensure a stable network across all areas with potential mass gatherings".

In this regard, "the industry is also partnering with law enforcement agencies to facilitate patrol of fibre infrastructure routes across the country".

"Similarly, the Chamber, through the National Engineering Coordinating Team (NECT), is engaging the Road Agencies to suspend all construction works around routes where critical utility infrastructure exists for the next two (2) weeks to safeguard the country from potential network disruptions", the statement said.

Dr. Ing. Kenneth Ashigbey CEO of the Chamber has said, 'these collaborations are to cement our efforts towards building a resilient network to support and augment Ghana's electoral process. We have in place secure and resilient systems to aid the seamless transmission of data and we are fully committed to the process, providing transparency to all our stakeholders to build upon the trust from previous years.'

It added that "beyond the elections, the industry will implement other critical interventions to support the Yuletide season. Customers are entreated to make use of the 24/7 digital channels, 24hr call centre routes, as well as the round-the-clock service centres which will operate extra hours to support general customer care experience".

"Finally, we would like to state that the mobile industry is committed to a strict adherence of all its license obligations and so we will be working closely with our Regulator, the National Communications Authority (NCA) during this unique period. We entreat the public to stay safe and continue to adhere to all COVID-19 protocols".

Meanwhile, the NCA had in a statement rejected claims it could interfere with broadcasting and internet services in the country and urged the public to disregard any allegations made to that effect.

The NCA statement was in reaction to the back of media reportage attributed to the NDC flagbearer of John Mahama, suggesting that the NCA is scheming to interfere with broadcasting signals and internet connectivity.

In a Facebook live session on Sunday, November 22, Mr. Mahama alleged that his interviews with Kumasi-based Abusua FM some weeks ago were compromised after the frequency of the station was jammed by the NCA.

"I'm also aware of what they did to Joy when they were going to broadcast that investigative piece on the National Lotteries.

"Joe Anokye is handling the NCA as a political office. I think on election day they can shut down the internet or any of the things dictators do. I hope we win and stop all that," he said.

But responding to the former President, the NCA said the allegations are completely unfounded.

This according to the Authority is because it does not "have the capability to block, jam, or interfere with broadcasting signals".

"As a telecommunications and broadcasting regulator, and in line with global best practice, the NCA has frequency spectrum monitoring equipment whose ability is limited to receiving signals and detecting their source, but not to jam them.

"Where necessary, Section 13 of ECA, 2008, Act 775 provides the basis and procedure for shutting down a radio communication service provider. The NCA serves notices and subsequently physically closes the facilities down and then monitors thereafter for compliance.

"The NCA does not interfere in the work of its broadcasting and Internet Service Licensees. On the contrary, the NCA assists them to promptly resolve cases of interference when they arise," part of the statement said.

The Authority used the opportunity to urge media houses experiencing any inconvenience to report the issue for immediate assistance.

"Licensees are therefore advised to report outages or cases of interference to the NCA for prompt investigation and resolution, and not misinform their audiences and clients."

Source: The Herald