Tunisia - After Recent Attacks, Interior Ministry to Beef up Internet Security


Concerns about the security of the websites of  Tunisian Interim Government ministries have increased, especially after recent breaches.

Recent cyber-attacks have targeted the Tunisian Prime Minister’s email account and the official website of the Ministry of Justice.

The government’s program for 2012, presented by Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali to the Constituent Assembly on April 5th, included a focus on improving Internet security by hiring new experts at the Ministry of the Interior.

Hafedh Ben Hamida, IT security engineer and cyber crime specialist, explained that the National Agency for Computer Security has been working on fortifying the defenses of the Internet in Tunisia  since 2004.

Haythem Elmir, an official at the National Agency for Computer Security, said that the experts will be brought in to assist his agency in its ongoing work protecting Tunisian government websites.

“The whole security system is to be re-structured in order to improve it. However, the final version is not clear yet,” he stated.

According to Elmir, the technical aspects of security breaches are immediately treated at the National Agency for Computer Security; emergencies are handled by a special group of the agency called the Tunisian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT).  However, legal pursuits are taken care of by other bodies of the government.

“We have been fighting cyber-crime for the past 5 years. It is a constant battle,” said Elmir. He explained that more backup and enhancement is needed as systems are becoming more vulnerable to sophisticated attacks. However, Elmir feared that process of improving Tunisia’s electronic defenses might be politicized, especially as the Prime Ministry, Interior Ministry, and the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology had all recently attempted to intervene in the matter.

He warned that infighting over the control of Internet security could be detrimental to the process of creating a more protected network. “Everyone must consider the country’s best interests as a priority,” he stated.

Ben Hamida asserted that no matter how effective the government’s Internet security, it was not responsible for the security of Tunisian politician’s personal use of the web. “The prime minister chooses his own password. The fact that his email was cracked does not imply that national cyber security is weak,” he added.

The Interior Ministry was unavailable for comment on the issue at the time of publication. The Office of the Prime Minister stated that they had no knowledge of the Prime Minister’s program to enhance internet security.