Caribbean banks see rise in cyber attacks

“The threats are not imminent, they are here. There are exploits that are occurring all across the Caribbean,” said Carlton Samuels, an independent IT consultant and lecturer at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus in Jamaica.

BankSeveral banks in Belize are taking steps to address identity theft and other cyber threats.

A recent national cybersecurity symposium brought together bankers and customers to put a spotlight on the growing incidence of cybercrimes against banks.  The weeklong meeting highlighted major gaps in the region’s readiness to respond to cyberattacks on financial institutions.

“The threats are not imminent, they are here. There are exploits that are occurring all across the Caribbean,” said Carlton Samuels, an independent IT consultant and lecturer at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus in Jamaica.

“It is commendable that Belize is developing a national framework for building awareness, regulatory responses, detection and prevention,” he added.

Samuels was among several regional and international cybersecurity experts addressing participants on technical issues such as the vulnerabilities of automated teller machines and social issues such as email fraud via phishing attacks.

The panel covered a broad range of topics, including how to detect security attacks, the pros and cons of public disclosure of cyber attacks, and best practices for recovering from cyber attacks.

The symposium, held from April 24 to 28, was organised jointly by the Belize Public Utilities Commission and the Caribbean Network Operators Group, a nonprofit organization that works to safeguard the region’s computer networks.

“Cybersecurity is a priority for the entire Caribbean. As our citizens, businesses, financial institutions and governments place greater reliance on Internet-based technologies, greater attention has to be paid to increasing our capacity to protect our computer networks and systems. And the crafting of any solution has to involve as many viewpoints as possible,” said Bevil Wooding, one of the organizers of the event and an internet strategist at US-based Packet Clearing House.

“That’s why a holistic, national approach, as seen in Belize, is the best way to address the issues related to cybersecurity,” he said.

More than 700 stakeholders took part in the weeklong national symposium, including law enforcement officers, judges, lawyers, business executives, government officials, computer network professionals, educators and other concerned citizens.

On the back of this historic event, the nation of Belize has emerged as an unlikely leader in the region, presenting a model for how other Caribbean jurisdictions can prepare for, defend against and respond to growing cyber threats.

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