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Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia Wednesday commissioned the Bank of Ghana’s (BoG) Financial Industry Command Security Operations Centre (FICSOC), to deal decisively with cybersecurity threats in the financial services sector.

The FICSOC was funded by the Bank of Ghana (BoG) as a threat intelligence sharing platform to coordinate cybersecurity efforts within the banking and financial industry, as well as build cybersecurity resiliency against cyber and information security threats.

The project, the first of its kind in Africa, was initiated by BoG in November 2019 and became operational in January 2023.

It was designed by Virtual InfoSec Africa Limited, a wholly owned Ghanaian information and cybersecurity services company. As of April 2023, all commercial banks in Ghana have been connected to the platform.

At the inauguration of the state-of-the-art digital infrastructure in Accra, Vice President Bawumia said the facility would better equip banks and financial institutions to deal with severe and emerging cyber threats targeting at the banking industry.

He stated that the use of digital technologies continued to transform business models of financial institutions with new revenue and value-producing opportunities.

He noted that whilst these digital technologies support banking services and enable banking strategies, the underlying security vulnerabilities pose key cyber risks among these institutions.

“Cybersecurity risks may impair operational capabilities and threaten the viability of financial institutions. Likewise, the contagion of cyber risk in a financial system is heightened by the extent of interconnectedness and therefore, any severe cyber-attack could threaten the stability of the financial system,” the Vice-President stated.

To enhance cyber resilience in the Ghanaian banking and financial industry, Dr Bawumia said, the Central Bank issued the Cyber and Information Security Directive (CISD) in October 2018, which defined the industry’s approach to cybersecurity defense and response.

The Directive requires that each regulated financial institution should implement a Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) technology that provides real-time analysis of the security alerts that network, hardware, and applications generate; and create a Security Operations Centre (SOC) to be operated by designated employees to serve as its cyber nerve centre.In addition, the Bank of Ghana should establish an industry SIEM system to receive logs/alerts, aggregated information, and reports from each institution’s SIEM.

These requirements formed the foundation of the Financial Industry Command Security Operations Centre (FICSOC).The FICSOC Project is aimed at threat intelligence-sharing, industry situational awareness and incident response among its regulated financial institutions.

“I am reliably informed that as of April 2023, all commercial banks had been connected to the FICSOC and reporting of cyber threat intelligence in the form of FICSOC alerts and FICSOC advisories is being communicated to these banks,” Dr Bawumia stated.

The platform designed for secure sharing and collaboration, as well as to facilitate the analysis and prioritization of risks, the allocation of resources, and the understanding of threats tailored to each regulated financial institution and the banking industry, he added.

The FICSOC comprised the integrated infrastructure and software solutions to gather, process and share threat intelligence.

These components are-the Security Information and Event Management (SIEM), Threat Intelligence Sharing, Network Traffic Analysis and Digital Forensic Laboratory.

The Vice President was of the conviction that with a coordinated approach between the regulator and member banks, the FICSOC would broadly support regulated financial institutions to collaboratively fight cybersecurity threats while maintaining independence and confidentiality in day-to-day operations.

In addition, he said, the FICSOC, as part of the Critical Information Infrastructure owned by the Bank of Ghana, will undergo mandatory compliance checks and audits under the Cybersecurity Act, 2020 (Act 1038) to protect Ghana’s critical systems and enhance the existing collaborative efforts between the Bank of Ghana and the Cyber Security Authority.

Dr Bawumia explained that the FICSOC platform was neither in competition with nor a replacement for regulated institutions’ cybersecurity risk management (including the SOC operations) but rather complements each financial institution’s cyber and information security management framework.

Hence, the responsibility for cyber and information security risk management ultimately lies with each regulated financial institution, not FICSOC operators or the Bank of Ghana.

“What the Bank of Ghana and Virtual InfoSec Africa have done tells us that we have to eschew the mindset of impossibility and believe that it is possible for us to lead the continent and even the world in many areas,” Dr Bawumia said.