Africa University 25th Graduation Ceremony
Why Govt officials shouldn’t use Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail

On the October 14, 2013 there was a report that, on a single day, the National Security Agency (NSA)’s Special Source Operations branch collected 444 743 email address books from Yahoo, 105 068 from Hotmail, 82 857 from Facebook, 33 697 from Gmail and 22 881 from other unspecified providers, The Washington Post said, according to an internal NSA presentation.

Furthermore, according to a report published in July 2017, Zimbabwe is number one Most Hackable Country in the World. Four years on (2017), following the Washington Post report, what concerns us in the Zimbabwe Information Communication Technologies (ZICT) sector is the fact that each and every Government employee who has an email address, including ministers, deputy ministers, Members of Parliament, permanent secretaries, etc has either a Gmail, Yahoo or a Hotmail, and uses it as a means of Government communication.

ZICT is one organisation that supports the use of Facebook, Twitter and other social media to reach out to the masses, but when it comes to official Government communication, officials should be stopped from using Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail or any other FREE email provider and use emails that are provided by our Government Internet Service Provider (GISP) (lets work on making it efficient).

The ZICT move comes amid concerns about rising cybercrime and hacking incidents that are constantly recorded worldwide. With the other being the well-publicised WikiLeaks and revelations of the US NSA spying, Zimbabwe should be drawing up an Email Policy to help secure Government communications. The use of Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail and the like is highly risky since these free email providers have their servers in the US and the NSA has been known to tap into their database systems. It is very clear that 100 percent, yes 100 percent of Zimbabwe Government officials use free email providers for official communication as all Government officials have a either a Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail address as indicated on their official Government business cards.

“I have a email, but the quality of our official Government email provided by Government Internet Service Provider (GISP) is not that great, as a Government official, you struggle to send or receive emails, hence the need to have a Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc,” a Government official added on condition of anonymity.

The Government of Zimbabwe has to come up with an Email Policy in the wake of spying allegations of the NSA revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks exposed by Julian Assange, to protect our Government communication channels. It is in the public domain that NSA’s tentacles not only crept into the Zimbabwean embassy in Washington and its UN office in New York, but has also accessed email and chat messenger contact lists of hundreds of millions of ordinary citizens worldwide, according to media reports.

The Email Policy must be policy that states that all Government services, officials and ministers must rely on the GISP as the provider of a secure email service and that they cannot even forward email from their official Government email to their personal Gmail email.

It is a ZICT proposal that the Government of Zimbabwe provides a platform where ICT experts meet to find a lasting solution to the use of FREE email providers.

The move must be brought as a matter of urgency amid concerns about rising cybercrime and hacking incidents.

The Email Policy must seek to protect large amounts of critical Government data and aim to make it mandatory for Government offices to communicate only on GISP, not on commercial email services Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.

With TelOne having a Data Centre, these emails may be integrating in the TelOne cloud so that official data can be saved on a cloud platform and can then be easily shared with the concerned Government ministries, officials and departments.

What should give the Government of Zimbabwe goose bumps is the fact that NSA has a data-mining tool, called Boundless Informant, which gives details and even maps by country of the voluminous amount of information it collects from computer and telephone networks in any particular country. Considering that Zimbabwe is a sanctioned country and the passing of the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001, which is still in effect, there is no doubt that the Boundless Informant is definitely focusing on Zimbabwe.

As Zimbabwe’s elections are just round the corner, it will be ill-advised for the Government of Zimbabwe to ignore this information, considering that there is speculation that the Russians hacked the USA electoral system. How about us Zimbabwe?

Act now.

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