Africa first for UCT’s cybersecurity

24 May 2019 | Story Supplied. Photo Richard Patterson, Flickr. Read time 3 min.
UCT’s status as a member of FIRST will enhance efforts to protect the university’s network and digital assets.
UCT’s status as a member of FIRST will enhance efforts to protect the university’s network and digital assets.

The University of Cape Town’s (UCT) focus on cybersecurity has seen the institution honoured as the first of its kind in Africa to be granted full membership of the Forum of Incident Response and Security Teams (FIRST), the recognised global leader in incident response.

UCT is only the third organisation in South Africa and the 14th on the continent to be listed as a full member, in recognition of the significant efforts made by the university’s Computer Security Incident Response team (CSIRT) to ensure its network and digital assets remain protected.

Cybercrime is on the rise, and higher education institutions continue to be at high risk of being attacked not only for their data, but also for their IT infrastructure, according to Roshan Harneker, senior manager for Information and Cybersecurity Services (ICS), who led the application.

“If accessed, the IT infrastructure can potentially aid cybercriminals with their illegal activities,” she said.

Prestigious forum

Founded in 1990, FIRST is a prestigious forum recognised as a global leader in incident response. It has only 483 members from 84 countries, representing the public, private and education sectors.


“This significant achievement sees UCT once again raising the bar in cybersecurity.”

Harneker said UCT is “in good company”, and that the membership will aid and strengthen the institution’s existing CSIRT capabilities.

“My team and I are very happy with this outcome, which has taken us a solid seven months of work to achieve.”

UCT was assisted in its application by NRD Cyber Security, a consultancy specialising in security tech, incident response and research.

The membership allows UCT access to a network of the world’s leading security experts, said Harneker. The university will also receive support in effectively and proactively managing IT security-related incidents.

“This significant achievement sees UCT once again raising the bar in cybersecurity, and we hope it will inspire other higher education institutions to join this exclusive forum too,” she said.

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Students’ Health and Welfare Centres Organisation (SHAWCO)


The Students' Health and Welfare Centres Organisation (SHAWCO) runs various health and education programmes. Approximately 2 000 UCT students are involved.

The community partnership and social entrepreneurship programmes, that address inequality, are managed by 32 full-time and 5 part-time professional staff.

Operating in the Western and Eastern Cape, the health programme provides primary healthcare to 5 000 adults and children (annually) close to their homes, with fully equipped mobile clinics.

The education programme gives academic support and homework assistance to 1 300 learners weekly with structured education projects that help improve the academic ability of learners.


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SHAWCO: celebrating 75 years of service SHAWCO is turning 75 and aims to raise R75 million to ensure the continued provision of healthcare, education and development services to the community. 23 Nov 2017
SHAWCO Health’s new president Fifth-year medical student James van Duuren is the newly appointed president of SHAWCO Health for 2018. 19 Oct 2017