7. Funding Crime Online: Cybercrime and its Links to Organised Crime in the Caribbean

Sophie Brain, Research Officer, Commonwealth Secretariat; email: [email protected]
Olajide Oyadeyi, Economic Research Officer, Commonwealth Secretariat; email: [email protected] / [email protected]

The Caribbean region has seen an explosion in digital transformation, with one of the fastest growing internet populations worldwide. The accompanying growth in cyber technology has allowed for new regional and social advancements. However, the Caribbean has also become an attractive target for cybercrime due to increased economic success, a growth in online presence, combined with low levels of cyber resilience. Organised crime groups have been able to exploit these vulnerabilities by taking advantage of the internet and exploring new ways of making money online, as well as using the internet for other illicit activities such as money laundering and funding terrorism. The Caribbean remains acutely unprepared to deal with cyberattacks and the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted several instances where these weaknesses were exposed, allowing for criminal groups to make millions of dollars.

This paper therefore aims to analyse the relationship between organised crime groups and cybercrime in the Caribbean and explores the methods used by these groups to fund their activities. The concept of ‘software-as-a-service’ is highlighted as an enabling factor in the underground economy used by organised crime groups in the Caribbean to help facilitate cybercrime. Ransomware is discussed as one of the top security concerns in the region, often used by organised crime groups to demand payment from organisations with insufficient cyber defences. Phishing is also emphasised as a common technique used by organised crime seeking to steal user banking data, gain access to accounts and steal from victims. Digital currencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and Central Bank Digital Currencies, as well as the dark web, are discussed as main facilitators used to move criminal proceeds in the Caribbean. The paper also discusses what Commonwealth Caribbean countries have done so far to combat these issues through their national cybersecurity strategies, including Jamaica’s National Cybersecurity Strategy and Belize’s National Cybersecurity Strategy – Towards A Secure Cyberspace 2020–2023. The activities of regional groups such as the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) Cyber Security and Cybercrime Action Plan are highlighted. Examples of successful interventions to undermine the use of cybercrime by organised crime groups in the world’s leading cybersecurity authorities are also explored.