The current broadband and network infrastructures in South Africa should be more than capable of providing a service comparable to Europe and the US – system administrators just need to clean up their act, says a leading network security expert.
Gary Miliefsky, founder and chief technology officer of NetClarity and a cybercrime advisor to former US presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton, says that more than half the capacity of many networks he accessed while on a visit to the country was being eaten up by botnets and malware.
"South African companies and operators don't have to buy new equipment to improve their network infrastructures," Miliefsky says. "They just have to clean up what they already have."
He cites the example of one government IT department he visited where, within minutes and implementing some simple procedures and software, he had improved the performance of the department's 1Gb line by 90%.
"Everyone loved it," he says. "Except those that were on porn sites, gambling sites, downloading music and downloading videos. But these culprits were only half the battle – backdoors were responsible for wasting the rest of the network's capacity.
"It's not about a lack of infrastructure, it's about so many backdoors, misconfigurations and vulnerabilities that local networks can't operate optimally.
"So when people scream that the network needs to be improved, fix what you have first and then you can decide on an upgrade," he says.
Miliefsky says he accessed a number of networks during his visit – airport wireless networks, government departments and commercial sites.
"I didn't hack into any of the major ISP networks to get more data, maybe next time," he says, adding that he wouldn't be surprised if they were experiencing the same problems.
"The bottom line is: would you like the tap water in your house to be loaded with cholera … and next week salmonella … and it changes every week?," he asks. "Of course not – so you filter it. That's what you have to do with your network. Filter it, clean it up. You don't allow some stranger to push more and more disease into your home – why should you allow them to do the same to your network?"
NetClarity is distributed in South Africa by Compliant IT.