It is a no-brainer that cybersecurity is crucial in an increasingly interconnected world. This is more evident than in the environment of National Research and Education Networks (NRENs), which serve as the backbone for academic and research knowledge assets worldwide. In Africa, where the digital landscape is rapidly evolving, robust cybersecurity systems are paramount to safeguard sensitive data and maintain the integrity of education and research data.

WACREN is making efforts, with the invaluable support of the European Commission-funded AfricaConnect3 project and other collaborators, to keep its communities connected and in a highly secure environment. Our TrustBroker Africa platform is pivotal in mobilising institutional and national security teams to share intelligence to forestall and minimise security threats against the academic community in our region.

Cybersecurity professionals and key stakeholders from academic institutions and NRENs in eight countries—Togo, Benin, Ghana, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, and Liberia—joined the TrustBroker Africa (TBA) III Workshop and Community-Building Event.

The collaborative workshop provided a platform for participants to delve into critical aspects of cybersecurity, from threat detection and incident response to developing resilient security frameworks. The resource persons from OpenCSIRTs Foundation also shared how to address the unique challenges NRENs face in West Africa, fostering collaboration and sharing best practices to enhance the region’s cyber defence capabilities.

As cyber threats evolve in complexity and frequency, the role of CSIRTs becomes increasingly vital. These teams are essential in coordinating responses to security incidents, mitigating risks, and fostering a culture of cybersecurity awareness within the NREN ecosystem. The workshop highlighted the importance of building and sustaining effective CSIRTs tailored to West African NRENs’ specific needs and contexts, emphasising that they are the backbone of the NREN ecosystem’s security.

Participants acquired practical skills in CSIRT fundamentals, SOC operations, effective incidence response, and legal and communication considerations. They learned the importance of proactive security management and effective and timely incident handling and response to minimise the negative impact on operations and ensure NREN business continuity. Participants learned that incident response teams contribute to a more robust security posture by learning from past incidents and implementing preventive measures.

WACREN is guiding NRENs in establishing their own CSIRT teams. TBA III underscored West African NRENs’ collective commitment to fortifying their cybersecurity infrastructure, ensuring a safe and secure digital environment for academic and research endeavours.