The Minister of Security Lt. Gen. Henry Tumukunde has reiterated that government will not compromise the security of the country for business interests of telecom companies, salve urging telephone users to validate their simcards before the set May 19 deadline.
Tumukunde told the press on Monday that the security agencies have sufficient capacity both in competency to monitor cyber-crime.
He was addressing the media in a joint press conference with officials from communications regulator Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) and National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA) on the status of the ongoing simcard registration.
“This is a matter that we don’t intend to compromise on, try be it in timing or quality. The public has been informed and there should be no excuses,” Minister Tumukunde said.
Asked on the capacity to curb cyber related crime, beyond the mass registration of simcards, he said; “A lot has been done. We have recruited competent people and we have sufficient equipment because we know the magnitude of this security threat.”
However he was tight lipped on revealing the statistics relating to cybercrime incidence.
While some in disagreement with the verification exercise have fronted arguments on privacy, the Security Minister revealed that government possesses legal grounds to intercept both data and voice under the Regulations and Interception of Communications Act.
“You can be sure that we have a command and control centre under the Ministry of Security where we are tracking all aspects of communication and we shall get to whoever is disrupting security. So you dodge it left, it will get you right,” Tumukunde said.
An official from the Ministry of Security said the monitoring centre has advanced capabilities to secure the public both overtly and covertly.
According to UCC Executive Director Eng. Godfrey Mutabazi, technologies to trace anonymous numbers and decrypt text messaging services like WhatsApp are available. He said; “There’s no single message that can’t be traced to its source. End to end encryption is useless.”
Tumukunde admitted that the dragging process of electing Local Council (LC I) Chairpersons is negatively affecting the efforts to curb crime saying the LCs were traditionally focal points of identification. “We (security) have as much interest in the delay of these elections as everyone else,” Tumukunde said.
Some have criticized the switching off of the unregistered simcards claiming it is a big blow to a sector (telecom) that draws in the most domestic revenue. Telecom companies make billions of money in daily mobile money transactions between the 22 million active simcards.
Despite the staggering sums that government could lose, Tumukunde insists that security must take precedence.
“We understand that telcos are here to do business but this should not shroud the issue of security. We are not reinventing the wheel here. It is common for Ugandans to want to do things their way but not this time,” the Minister stressed.
“Tourism forexample is out biggest source of foreign revenue but remember tourism is so sensitive to insecurity especially in today’s social media dynamics.”