Cyber-security specialist weighs in on cyber threats

PHILIPSBURG–“The dangers of cyber threats in the Caribbean continue to evolve and spike at a rate never seen before. As the telecom providers in the Caribbean seek opportunities to increase their revenues through increased Internet penetration across the region, risks mushroom,” said Deon Olton, a cyber-security expert at the Caribbean Cyber Security Centre, in a statement on Tuesday.

He said the risks are further compounded as societies transcend geographical and physical borders, and real-time communication and business transactions are rapidly becoming an everyday staple. However, utilising the same networks and links that bind us globally as we communicate and do business are now the means through which cyber attacks are being perpetrated.

Cyber threats and attacks by present-day digital pirates are able to strike from virtually anywhere in the world, causing catastrophic social and economic harm to countries that are oceans away.

Caribbean governments cannot contain these cyber threats singlehandedly for several reasons. There is need for capacity-building and overall public sector awareness. Most governments do not have a centralised focus on risk and contingency planning; hence, issues associated with cyber security are not prioritised and overall there is no security programme plan to increase network visibility and control.

Prosecutor Martin Van Nes, an in-depth specialist in combatting cybercrime in the entire Dutch Caribbean, said in an article published recent in The Daily Herald that cybercrime deserves more attention.

“There is insufficient awareness about cybercrime among residents, within the business community and in Government. There is an increased threat of cyber attacks and cyber security should be stepped up,” he said.

Olton believes that Van Nes could not be more right, with thousands of new malware variants being released every month, the discovery of new security holes in day-to-day applications, thousands of hackers and hacktivists, fraudsters and spammers, and the advanced persistent and targeted attacks, government administrators are unable to defend the integrity, availability, confidentiality and sovereignty of Caribbean data and information technology resources without help.

Public and private sector in-house information technology (IT) teams need beefed-up support, greater investments in the latest technology and access to local and international resources that defend systems and data from digital pirates.

“To think all is safe when there is no clearly-defined budget or procedures to deal with defending data and preventing security breaches is merely leaving the doors and windows opened to our government data and infrastructure.

“Without a dedicated and planned approach, we certainly can predict that the national security, public safety and economic development of our Caribbean governments will be compromised in a time when most islands are facing hard economic times.

“The decision to wait and see what happens is not an option. The Panama Papers, the US $150-million cyber robbery from a Jamaican bank, reports of ISIS hijacking regional

Source: The Daily Herald