The importance of secure electronic information in the business environment has galvanised a number of top corporates into constituting the South African Chapter of the Information Security Forum (ISF).
"The advances made with electronic communication have escalated the global business war, and intangibles such as intellectual property rights, through to tender documents, marketing strategies and customer lists are fair game," says Jaco Grobler, Manager of Global Risk Management Solutions at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
The ISF is the first of its kind in South Africa. It is an organisation, represented by business, dedicated to finding information security solutions for business.
"Intellectual property is key to innovation and competitive advantage and is the foundation for development. Protecting this innovation is therefore critical to the future growth of a developing country like South Africa," says Grobler.
PricewaterhouseCoopers, local agents of the ISF, reported keen interest noting that Old Mutual were first to join and Anglo American, Billiton, Eskom, FirstRand and Stanbic, among others, were quick to follow.
"Leading global organisations realise that information is the lifeblood of their businesses and that secure access to such information is the key to remaining competitive," says Grobler.
Membership of the ISF is a demonstration to stakeholders that it places high emphasis on protecting shared information.
Achieving requisite levels of security in the face of ever-increasing advances in technology and e-business remains a challenge for management.
The ISF, an international body formed in 1989, has more than 220 members representing big business from around the world. The types of projects that have been tackled include cryptography in business, managing third party access, a framework for information security, secure e-mail, securing remote access by staff, Windows NT security and the development of simple-to-apply and easy-to-understand methods for the assessment of information risk. Grobler says, "Information systems are essential tools in most large business operations, which put them at risk if this information is not secure.
"Decentralised global organisations depend on information technology to support common technologies and efficient processes world-wide. Effective communication both internally and externally is essential to the efficient running of these organisations and must be secured." An additional aim of the South African Chapter might be to start working with government and the legislature to put in place laws that would protect all spheres of e-business.
The South African chapter is only the second outside Europe, apart from North America and is still relatively small by comparison to the founders, which boast a membership that contains many top Fortune 500 companies.
For details contact Joandra Griesel of PricewaterhouseCoopers on tel: (011) 797 4245, fax: (011) 797 5822.