SITA to deploy IT security centres across govt depts

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 23 Oct 2023
The public sector is the key target of cyber attacks in SA.
The public sector is the key target of cyber attacks in SA.

The State IT Agency (SITA) is planning to roll out over 60 security operations centres (SOCs) across government departments, to safeguard IT systems and protect citizen data.

This was the word from SITA CEO Dr Bongani Mabaso, speaking at a recent Amazon Web Services (AWS) Summit, in Johannesburg.

Delivering a presentation under the theme: “Navigating digital sovereignty and data privacy, a practical guide”, Mabaso explained that from a digital infrastructure perspective, broadband, the adoption of cloud, the acceleration of the modernisation of data centres and improved security remain SITA’s core focus areas.

The agency is tasked with managing and leveraging IT as a strategic resource for government, and ensuring the public sector uses innovation to support the delivery of e-government services to all citizens, in a cost-efficient manner.

According to Mabaso, SITA has deployed SOCs across two departments so far – the Department of Higher Education and Training, as well as the Presidency.

“The SOC initiative is aimed at supporting the admin of fighting cyber crime within government. It will not replace the net standard defence functions, and the departments would still have to build their apps in a secured way. The centres would provide the last line of defence, where we can detect issues and be able to automate security functions where possible.

“We are still busy with the SOC in the Presidency. There are 60-plus more centres to go and we need to try and get to as big a number as possible by the end of this year and in the years to come, so that we can provide that advanced line of defence,” explained Mabaso.

SITA’s investment in security protocols at government departments will ensure government and citizens are able to transact, communicate and interface in an environment that is secure and safe, while ensuring business continuity, he noted.

Mabaso noted government departments have become attractive targets for attackers due to the wealth of information they have on citizen data and government operations, with SA being high on the list.

South African government departments that have fallen prey to cyber criminals over the last few years include the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and the Western Cape Provincial Parliament, with the State Security Agency reportedly hacked in August.

According to areportby US-based cyber security firm Trellix, the public sector is the key target of cyber attacks in SA, with 26% of threats detected in the second quarter of this year aimed at government departments. Business service providers followed at 16%, with wholesalers’ networks at 14%, and utilities’ systems at 12%, notes the report.

State IT Agency CEO Dr Bongani Mabaso. (Photograph by Karolina Komendera)
State IT Agency CEO Dr Bongani Mabaso. (Photograph by Karolina Komendera)

According to SITA, significant integrated action in the security of government data assets is a priority the agency aims to strengthen in this financial year.

From a procurement perspective, SITA’s services will be centred around the envisaged reforms that will deliver much-needed value in vendor management, industry partnerships and small, medium and micro enterprises.

“Another thing that we are launching soon is an Integrated Operations Centre, which includes the SOCs but will also look at other functionalities of the state. This will enable us to digitise and monitor the entire operations of government, so that we can be very quick to respond when things go wrong, because alerts and relevant indicators will be set up in a room we can monitor at national level and be able to respond to these in a quick way,” added Mabaso.

Cloud, he pointed out, is a crucial enabler of SITA’s digital services, deployed to enhance the end-to-end public service value chain, and improve citizens’ experience through supporting the efficient delivery of all public services by government.

AWS is among several providers helping public sector organisations pioneer these solutions, he noted.

“Digital service delivery is part of our key plans, and having a digital government that provides an advanced line of defence will ensure we remain sovereign as a country. Citizen-first is our number one principle, which means our initiatives require participation, not only from the state, but also from citizens because they are our business case.”