MOBILE service providers have raised concern over hackers who create applications which allow users to send data through secret channels called virtual private network (VPNs) at the same time evading tariffs.
BY BLESSED MHLANGA
Econet Zimbabwe’s Robert Rusike, who was speaking at a Zimbabwe Information and Communication Technologies workshop yesterday, said the use of VPNs was affecting their revenue.
“These tools are used in countries which are viewed as those run by despots or authoritarian regimes and they create a secret tunnel in which information is moved and cannot be detected. We, therefore, can’t charge for that data because the same equipment used to detect data is the same which we use to charge,” he said.
Rusike said if VPN spots were not dealt with, it would affect the viability of mobile service providers, who will fail to collect revenue from data moved through their networks.
Information and Communication Technologies minister Supa Mandiwanzira said he was aware of the viability problems facing providers owing to the use of VPNs and called on the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe and the mobile service providers to meet and find a solution to the problem.
“Infrastructure is being put up with huge costs and that money is not coming from Zimbabwe, but is being borrowed from foreign financial institutions. This money needs to be paid back, so that issue poses viability problems and has to be resolved before it hits us,” Mandiwanzira said.
He also proposed a central cyber-incident management centre, where cybercrimes will be reported, warnings sent from and investigations of cybercrimes would be co-ordinated from.
“It is important and it is part of the ITU’s [International Telecommunication Union] mandate to assist regions and countries to have computer instant response centres to ensure that where there are attacks on the cyber space, they are reported. For instance, where a bank is attacked, it has to be reported instantly and warnings sent out to other institutions,” Mandiwanzira said.
The government is currently working on a cyber Bill, which will, among other things, see the government give itself power to snoop on private information on the Internet.
This Bill has been met with resistance from civil society and general Internet users, who say it could stifle freedom of expression ahead of the crucial 2018 general elections.