College of Agriculture, Engineering
and Science (CAES)

UKZN Academics Plenary Presentation at the ITWeb Security Summit

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Drs Brett van Niekerk and Trishana Ramluckan delivered a plenary presentation in conjunction with Mrs Noëlle van der Waag-Cowling (Stellenbosch University) at the annual ITWeb Security Summit, which was held online.

Their presentation was titled, Multi-disciplinary Teams to Counter State-backed Cyber Attacks: Experiences from an International Cyber Challenge, and was based on the lessons learned from winning an international cybersecurity competition earlier this year.

There have been increasing allegations of nations perpetrating or backing major cyber-attacks, with private organisations often targeted or affected by these cyber-operations. In responding, organisations and their cybersecurity teams need to be familiar with more than just technical considerations; the strategic situation as well as local and international law also need to be taken into account. Managing the social implications of cyber-incidents is also important, as was seen recently when a major US pipeline was out of commission due to a cyber-incident, resulting in shortages of petrol and panic buying.

A key take away of the presentation is the importance of cybersecurity competitions and exercises for skills development, as well as cybersecurity incident responders’ preparedness to assess their procedures and tools. The latter is particularly important, as shortcomings or unexpected complexities in an incident response plan can be identified during exercises, providing an opportunity to improve before a crisis occurs.

The ITWeb Security Summit is the premier information security practitioner conference in South Africa; this year there were approximately 350 attendees, with 45 presentations, workshops and panels over a three-day period.

Van Niekerk is a Senior Lecturer in Computer Science at UKZN with a research focus on cybersecurity, and Ramluckan is an Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Law with a research focus on the application of international law to cybersecurity.

Words: Leena Rajpal

Image: Supplied