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Caribbean to tackle escalating cybercrime with regional approach

15 March 2016

Commonwealth ministers, policymakers and cybersecurity experts will gather in Saint Lucia for a three-day meeting (16-18 March) to tackle rising cybercrime in the Caribbean.

Major cybercrimes reported in the region to date include the theft of $150 million from an international bank in 2014; individuals claiming to be local ISIS supporters hacking government websites in 2015; and, in the same year, hackers infecting tax authorities with ransomware, which blocks users from accessing their systems and demands money.

The meeting will provide a platform for participants to address challenges and develop a co-ordinated regional action plan to prevent cybercrime and improve cybersecurity. It will include creation of a virtual platform to share expertise and best practice.

Those in attendance will include ministers responsible for legal affairs, ICT and national security, attorneys general from the Caribbean and international organisations, such as Interpol, The Council of Europe, FBI and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

“Drawing on our strengths as one Commonwealth, we have the opportunity to tackle cybercrime and ensure technology platforms are secure.  We can then direct precious resources to helping societies flourish,” said Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General, Josephine Ojiambo.

The Commonwealth Cybercrime Initiative conducted assessments in five Commonwealth Caribbean countries, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda and Barbados, which revealed an upsurge in cybercrime. It noted a high number of incidences in the private sector and found that cases are not reported because of perceived reputational damage and lack of capacity.

“The emergence of e-Commerce, e-government and other technologically-enabled services in the Caribbean has opened up new avenues for economic activity that cybercriminals can exploit,” said Tony Ming, ICT Adviser at the Commonwealth Secretariat. “Insider threats account for more than 50 per cent of all security breaches. This, in conjunction with the exponential growth in internet usage and mobile devices, has created new vulnerabilities and will require industry-strength cybersecurity to protect important digital assets,” he concluded.

The issue of cybercrime in the Commonwealth Caribbean was first addressed by the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) at its ministerial conference in St Philip, Barbados, in 2011, which focused on a regional strategy for cybersecurity. This initiative resulted in the Declaration of St Philip, Barbados on Caribbean Collaboration on Cyber Security, ratified in 2013.

Bernadette Lewis, Secretary General of the CTU, commented: “We welcome the opportunity to partner again with the Commonwealth Secretariat and advance economic and social development in the region through enabling technology.”