DA introduces Bill to regulate cyber security

Issued by Adv Glynnis Breytenbach MP – DA Shadow Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development
18 Jul 2023 in News
  • The DA has introduced the Cyber Commissioner Bill that aims to regulate cyber security.
  • There is an urgent need for improved protection of personal information and stronger cyber security measures.
  • The DA hopes to receive bipartisan support for the bill and collaborate across the political spectrum to strengthen South Africa’s cyber security protections.

The DA is proud to announce the introduction of the Cyber Commissioner Bill, officially named the Constitution Twentieth Amendment Bill, into Parliament. This significant step aims to amend the Constitution and establish a new Chapter 9 institution dedicated to regulating cyber security in South Africa.

The urgent need for a dedicated Cyber Commissioner arises from the current inadequate protection of personal information by state departments. In today’s digital age, cyber technology has become a vital component of government operations. With the increasing reliance on technology, it is crucial to develop new strategies to safeguard data and protect the rights of citizens utilising these technologies.

When the Constitution was adopted, cyber security was not a significant threat. However, over the past few decades, cyber-attacks on state institutions have emerged as a serious concern, endangering both the functioning of the state and the security of its citizens’ information. South African state departments and critical infrastructure are currently insufficiently protected against cyber threats and lack the necessary tools to defend sensitive public information from breaches.

Recent incidents illustrate the severity of the issue:

  1. The Postbank recently revealed substantial losses of over R18 million in a three-month period due to cybercrime attacks. Additionally, an attack in October 2021 resulted in a loss of at least R90 million;
  2. According to a report by Cyber Security Company Kaspersky, spyware attacks within South Africa rose by 18.8% between the last quarter of 2022 and the first quarter of 2023;
  3. The Western Cape Provincial Parliament fell victim to a cyber-attack in May, rendering its ICT systems inaccessible;
  4. In August 2022, the South African Reserve Bank experienced an attempted cyber-attack from a criminal syndicate;
  5. The Department of Justice and Correctional Services’ Guardians Fund suffered a breach, resulting in the theft of over R17 million and suspension of beneficiary payments;
  6. The Information Regulator fined the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development R5 million for non-compliance with POPIA after failing to renew licenses for antivirus software.

To address these pressing challenges, the Cyber Commissioner will play a crucial role in modernising the state’s cyber security capabilities and protecting personal information from interception and loss. The Cyber Commissioner’s powers will include establishing and maintaining cyber security capabilities across all state organs and entities dealing with public information, operating a cyber security hub for reporting, monitoring, and investigating incidents and threats, advising the defense force on cyber defense capabilities, and guiding institutions responsible for critical infrastructure regarding cyber security. Moreover, the Commissioner will promote, monitor, and evaluate compliance with cyber security capabilities and standards.

To fulfill these responsibilities effectively, the Cyber Commissioner must be a fit and proper individual with specialised knowledge or suitable qualifications in cyber security and cyber forensics.

The DA is optimistic that with the introduction of the Cyber Commissioner Bill into Parliament, it will receive bipartisan support. The party aims to collaborate across the political spectrum to enhance South Africa’s cyber security protections, ensuring a safer digital environment for all.

The DA remains committed to safeguarding the personal information of South African citizens and ensuring that the state is well-equipped to face the challenges posed by cyber threats. By establishing a Cyber Commissioner, we take a significant step towards achieving these goals and securing a stronger cyber security framework for our nation.

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