Tonga’s increasing concern with cyber security issues has led it to join a new regional group of expert teams which respond to cyber attacks.
The kingdom is one of 14 members of the Pacific Cyber Security Operational Network created in April this year.
Tonga established the Pacific Island’s first Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) in the Pacific.
It provides advice and support on cyber threats and vulnerabilities to the owners and operators of Tongan critical infrastructure and other systems of national interest.
In May last year Tonga signed an agreement with Australia to collaborate on cyber security issues and to share information with CERT Australia.
Cybercrime has been an issue in the Pacific for several years, with attempts to hack into national financial institutions and telephone networks and denial of service attacks.
In 2016 Tonga hosted a meeting of police officers, lawyers and government officials from Pacific Commonwealth countries tackle deepening concerns around cybercrime.
According to a New Zealand government report, as technological advances and greater connectivity give Pacific nations more access to the internet, cyber security challenges will only increase.
Tonga’s concern with cyber security was heightened by research by Tongan-born Massey graduate Siuta Laulaupea’alu, from Okoa.
As part of his Master of Cyber Security at the University of Waikato, Laulaupea’alu worked on a thesis analysing the Tongan Government’s computer networks and potential security risks.
He presented his research to government ministries and agencies in the kingdom.
As a result, the Tongan government signed a memorandum of understanding with the university to collaborate on security issues.
“If we don’t develop a better understanding of cyber security and implement strategies as a society, cybercrimes will become commonplace,” Laulaupea’alu said.
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