NEC Africa secures Africa’s top cyber security expert

Vernon Fryer, the renowned cyber security specialist formerly of Vodacom, has joined NEC Africa to head up the African cyber business and Cyber Defence Operation Centre.

Fryer, with more than 46 years of experience, was formerly Group Chief Technology Security Officer at Vodacom where he strategically aligned networks, information services, and Vodafone Group Technology Security.

Eugene le Roux, MD and President of NEC Africa, says: “Vernon is a real thought leader in the cyber security space and with his vision for combining physical and digital security through the application of NEC technologies excites us. His passion, together with his background in service providers and government, makes him the ideal candidate to help us build this new business in Africa. He has built the Cyber Operations Centre over the last eight years for Vodacom with huge success and we are honoured to have him join our business.”

Le Roux adds that Fryer will collaborate closely with NEC’s global Cyber Defence Operations Centre to create local expertise in collaboration with local partners.

NEC already has cyber operations facilities in Japan, Singapore, Australia, Austria and America to be joined by the newly planned centre in Africa. “XON, our local associate, currently performs many consulting and installation services around security on a project-by-project basis. Our plan is to utilise NEC’s global competence with our local skill in establishing a new security-as-a-service business model,” says le Roux.

“NEC Africa is the African extension of NEC’s consolidated global intelligence and security services network,” says Fryer. “NEC Africa’s cyber defence operations centre builds on the first Cyber Security Factory in Japan created in 2014, the later Singapore Cyber Security Factory established in 2016, and several new Security Operations Centres (SOC) created in Australia, the US, and Austria.

“Our service is unique on the African continent. We are the only service provider capable of integrating physical and cyber security,” he says. “Typically that’s the extraction of facial recognition intelligence, fingerprints and so on, combined with data from social media feeds and other similar sources such as usernames, handles, hashtags, e-mail addresses, written posts, messages, location data, time stamps, photographs, and videos. We combine the data to place individuals at a location at the time of an alleged crime with identifying evidence for law enforcement officials. An example may be the #FeesMustFall protest where several social media posts could have identified instigators of violence. Another would be the East Rand cash-in-transit heist during which the armoured car was blown apart. A third could be the cash heist at OR Tambo in which robbers made off with more than R20m destined for a bank in the UK.”

Fryer’s experience began at IBM in finances and continued through to the South African Police Service (SAPS) where he was head of information security, head of cyber crime for Interpol Southern Africa, and national head of the Computer Crime Unit.

NEC’s global security operations centres, served in Africa by NEC Africa with its associate, XON, are being integrated into a follow-the-sun service. These centres will provide global threat analyses and responses for NEC customers, including those that form part of NEC’s safe cities programme. The centres are divided into two types: Cyber Security Factories and Security Operations Centres.

NEC’s Cyber Security Factories include top-level white hat hackers and other security personnel who constantly analyse changing and evolving cyber-attack information, accumulate and share technology and know-how needed in countering unauthorised access and other security incidents, and enhance capacity to investigate and analyse cyber attacks.

Security Operations Centres (SOC) develop new cyber defence solutions such as security surveillance systems that enable customers themselves to monitor the status of threat from cyber attacks.

Cyber Security Factories and Security Operations Centres collaborate via an inter-connected network to share intelligence on cyber threats.

The physical and cyber security worlds are rapidly converging through technological advances in using non-intrusive identification technologies such as facial recognition combined with social media platforms as key enablers to solving urban security challenges. Cross-agency collaboration and information sharing is essential in this new age where selected data from different systems in agencies in both the public and private space can be integrated into one command centre to provide a coherent view of the situation and the actions required.

The full raft of services from XON and NEC Africa’s Cyber Defence Operation Centre will include incident response, security reviews, vulnerability assessments, penetration testing, private security infrastructure consulting, managed security services such as gateways, e-mail and Web with cyber threat intelligence, and security-as-a-service for outbound Web protection, secure mobile communications-as-a-service, and cyber range training and scenario evaluation that Fryer says is world class.

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