The penetration of internet access in the Caribbean region has undoubtedly paved the way for greater access to the information superhighway and the benefits of competing on the global stage. However, with this access comes great responsibility and risk and we will soon learn that ignorance is no excuse and what we don’t know can and will hurt us.
Pretending that the Caribbean is immune from the impact of cyber threats and cyber crime should be quickly eroded from our minds when we see recently that banks in the region are reissuing credit cards because of data breaches, regional web sites being hacked by Isis, the recent spike in extortion based cyber crime, and the infamous WannaCry attack. If we look back as far as back as the last quarter of 2012 and first quarter of 2013 we have seen rapid growth in the reported attacks in the Caribbean and its beginning to get a little closer to our pockets. The internet is like the wild-west, any and every type of company is being hacked these days and regional businesses will not be spared.
Did you know that Cybercrime has become the primary motivation behind cyber-attacks in the Caribbean? Did you know that a cyber-attack resulting in two days of downtime and data breach could cost a company more than US$50,000 in losses? Of course we all you know that the islands’ economies are heavily dependent on tourism and by extension the inability to do business will have grave impacts on our financial services sectors and our fragile economies.
As parents and guardians have we stopped and considered what our kids are doing on the social media sites. Do we know that fraudsters and pedophiles target social media sites to exploit our children? Did you know revealing information on where we live, where mum and dad work and when we travel can all be used by criminals against us and our children? Do you know there are reports of children being abducted in the Caribbean by persons they meet on social media sites? Simply posting that we are on vacation in Miami with the whole family on our social media profile tells everyone that our home may be unattended.
As business leaders do we know that insurance companies and auditors will soon demand proof that you have done all that is necessary to protect your company’s data assets so that cyber related claims can be settled. Do we know that our local IT staff faces the same threats as the IT staff for the CIA or a fortune 500 company that trades on NYSE? Did you just buy a $10,000 firewall or some device on the advice of the vendor that you will be safe? Well guess again devices alone can’t keep us safe.
The protection of Caribbean Information and Communication Infrastructures is one of the most serious public safety, economic and national security challenges facing our region. In response, the Caribbean Cyber Security Center was established to improve awareness of the threats and to assist in making the right investments in people, policies, processes and technology to protect our region and its people from the harms of Cybercrime. If we continue to pretend that we will never become a victim because the Caribbean is too small we will soon come face to face with the cliché “what we don’t know can hurt us’ after we have been compromised and have suffered a great loss.
By Deon Olton
Mr. Deon Olton is a UWI graduate and Certified IT Security practitioner. A well-known expert in cyber security, having assisted multiple organizations improve their security posture, written extensive articles for popular publications, written annual cyber security predictions for the region and appeared as a guest on tv and radio interviews. Mr. Olton’s experience in telecoms, ICT and Cyber Security has allowed him to perform multiple roles in IT Risk Assessment, Security Awareness Training and long-term strategic IT planning. With this depth of experience and passion, Mr. Olton has developed proactive plans to address the growing Cyber Security threats to the Caribbean region’s economies. As the Project Lead for the Caribbean’s first and only indigenous Cyber security public awareness Campaign, with a mission of “Keeping Caribbean Citizens Safe Online”, he is responsible for the online web portal, creating public service messages, developing age-appropriate presentations for parents, schools and the elderly. Additional Mr. Olton has spearheaded community outreach projects to increase knowledge of cyber security within schools and communities all across the region.