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Cyber security expert warns: Caribbean could be losing millions

Published: 
Saturday, August 9, 2014

The CEO of Caribbean Cyber Security Centre (CCSC) James Bynoe says cybercrime is a growing national security, public safety and economic development threat to the region and he is urging governments, businesses and other institutions to take more action to deal with the problem.

In an op-ed published by the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC), Bynoe said in the last 12 months there have been reports across the region of network breaches, Web site defacements, ATM scams, denial of service attacks, and credit card fraud incidents. He said recent reports from leading global security organisations show that in 2013 the Caribbean saw significant increases in data breaches, banking trojans, mobile malware and other online threats.

Bynoe said CCSC had responded to successful and unsuccessful attempts by cyber criminals and hackers to steal thousands in revenue from businesses and individuals. He is of the view that the Caribbean could be losing millions via unsecure and unprotected work and home computers.

He expressed concern about the “extremely low level of regional cyber security awareness, non-adherence to cyber security best practices and standards, and the time it takes an average person, business, organisation or government to realise they have been “hacked or compromised”, which can be as long as 2-3 years.” Bynoe said while the region’s telecommunications industry is seeking to expand internet access, that is providing cyber-criminals and hackers with more and more potential cyber victims. 

“Additionally, to complicate matters we have a few regional and international organisations with resources to assist in combating the cyber threat that can’t seem to get off the conference “talk circuit” and get down to the brass tacks in raising regional cyber security awareness in a tangible way,” he said. The CCSC CEO called on prime ministers to make combatting cybercrime a national priority and to create a cybercrime leadership post that reports directly to the prime minister’s office. 

“Simply adding cyber security to a minister’s portfolio, as is typically done, will not be enough to combat this threat due to the current low level of cyber awareness that exist today, and the attention that it needs,” he said. 

He also called for introduction of comprehensive set of cyber laws and legislation to bring the Caribbean “into sustainable alignment with the evolution of technology much better than is being done today.” Additionally cybercrime reporting laws and legislation will pay a key role in giving us the much needed data on the real world impact of cybercrime on the region, which is a key part of the challenge we have in taking this threat seriously.

Bynoe also called for private sectors to play a more socially responsible role in helping educate the masses on the cyber threat

“Additionally both the public and private sectors need to proactively start budgeting for cyber defenses in the operating of their information systems and view investments in cyber defenses as a cost saving customer protection measure, and not just the IT guys wanting new toys to play with. Just as we spend and budget for guards and security systems, budgeting for cyber defenses is more critical than ever,” he said.

Bynoe warned: “The last thing the Caribbean region needs in these challenging economic times is to be known as an unsafe region to do cyber/Internet dependent business, or use credit cards in the case of the tourism industry. “As one of the fastest growing Internet penetration regions in the world we in the Caribbean can no longer afford to ignore the cyber threat we face today or in the future.”