Published On: Wed, Oct 8th, 2014

Caribbean cyber security awareness is still dangerously low

InternetOctober is recognized internationally as “Global Cyber Security Awareness Month.”  Unfortunately, cyber security awareness in the Caribbean remains dangerously low making us extremely vulnerable to cyber criminals, hackers, and predators.  In the last 12 months we have seen an increase in cyber related incidents across the region in the form of ATM scams, targeted online financial fraud, and website defacements.  International and regional efforts to raise the cyber security awareness bar are struggling to get the attention of public and private sector leaders, noting that the multifaceted cyber threat has significant national security, economic development, law enforcement and public safety implications that all must be addressed.

Many Caribbean governments, businesses and organizations are still failing to act proactively to adequately protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of their information system data and assets, which often contains our most valuable personal and private information.  Additionally, hackers and cyber criminals know that the Caribbean is lagging behind in the implementation of cyber laws, which makes our region an ideal target.  We recently saw convicted ATM fraudsters released after a short remand and payment of a fine after stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from ATM’s.  It can be argued whether the punishment issued to the ATM fraudsters matched the crime, noting that there are thousands of convicted criminals in regional prisons for stealing far less.

To make matters worse, the banking sector in the Caribbean is failing to move more aggressively to the more secure ATM\Credit Card platform called chip and pin, in spite of having to respond to an increase in cyber related banking fraud incidents.  Bank executives are failing to see that the losses in productivity cost associated with having to responding to the rise in banking fraud incidents is more than the cost of implementing more secure ATM\Credit Card technology to protect themselves and their customers.

One key irony in confronting the cyber challenge is that there is a wealth of cyber security best practices and standards that presently exist globally.  Yet, we in the Caribbean are not leveraging this information to our advantage or to protect ourselves.  Unfortunately, most Caribbean businesses, organizations and governments simply do not adhere to international IT security best practices and standards for protecting information systems by having an annual penetration test, vulnerability assessment or cyber security awareness training for staff.  As a result many Caribbean businesses, organizations and governments may be currently breached or compromised and don’t even realize it.

It appears that it will take a catastrophic cyber incident to jolt the Caribbean into action, however based on our low level of cyber security awareness and non-adherence to cyber security best practices and standards a catastrophic cyber-attack may have already occurred which we haven’t discovered as yet.  We at the Caribbean Cyber Security Center (CCSC) continue to urge regional leaders in the public and private sectors to start to take the threat from cyber criminals, hackers, and predators seriously, as it has been proven that the cost of being proactive against the cyber threat is much less than that of responding to a cyber-incident.

Remember, hindsight is always a tough teacher.

By James Bynoe CEO Caribbean Cyber Security Center

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