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Mauritius: Regulators step in as cyber security risk grows

Christopher Tredger
By Christopher Tredger, Portals editor
Johannesburg, 27 Feb 2024
Teswaree Heerah, chief data management and security officer, Mauritius Telecom.
Teswaree Heerah, chief data management and security officer, Mauritius Telecom.

Mauritius is making progress on its digital transformation journey, but this has exposed the island nation to increased cyber security risks, says Teswaree Heerah, chief data management and security officer, Mauritius Telecom.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Check Point CPX 2024 event in Vienna recently, Heerah said increased cyber risk has triggered a response by the Information & Communication Technology Authority (ICTA) and it is now mandatory for organisations to divulge information including cyber incidents and risk management practices.

Heerah sees this as a positive development. “This shift from voluntary to mandatory information-sharing also brings with it opportunity… It helps empower organisations to strengthen their defences.”

The regulation of data and sovereignty aligns with the government's Digital Mauritius 2030 Strategic Plan. Some of the key objectives within this plan address cyber security and include sponsoring research to assess the economic impact of cyber attacks in Mauritius, partnering with the private sector to establish a layered approach to cyber threat information sharing via an online portal called Maushield, and to setting up a capacity building programme to develop defence against the dark web, virtual currency and online money laundering.

“Mauritius stands out [as one of] the most developed, innovated, secured countries in Africa, [but] this also means that the security vulnerabilities and cyber attacks are on the rise,” said Heerah.

At Mauritius Telecom, embedding security by design is central to innovation, she said, while internal and external collaboration and automation are key to dealing with the expanding cyber attack surface. 

'"This surface has grown wider with the advent of emerging technology like AI, cloud, robotics and machine learning.

“To get the most benefit from these emerging technologies we are finding ways to collaborate at the early stage of the project lifecycle with our management team to incorporate risk management and controls into our transformation strategies. However, the challenge is to make sure that our technology leaders understand the security Implications," she explained.

“We are also exploring the use of threat intelligence, GenAI, the metaverse and machine learning, including models that automate data classification, monitor security and analyse vulnerabilities."

Digital Mauritius

According to Heerah, the Mauritian government's focus on research and development has elevated the island nation’s global profile.

She cited market research by the United Nation’s Human Development Index (HDI) and the Global Innovation Index (GII) 2023 which she believes is evidence of Mauritius’ innovation and digital growth.

The GII 2023 ranks Mauritius in 57th place among 132 economies featured in the Index.

According to the ITU Global Cybersecurity Index 2021 Mauritius was among seven African countries that made it onto a list of top 50 countries with the highest levels of cyber security.

However, the Check Point research, released in November 2023, showed that Mauritius is among the top ten African countries that are most vulnerable to cyber threats. 

Regional media have reported that the country is poised to implement a National Cybersecurity Strategy for the years 2023 – 2026.