Caribbean Computer Networks Under Attack

CaribNOG Ethical Hackers Seek to Help Protect Against Data Theft “Make no mistake about it; the threat of computer attacks in the Caribbean is real. Caribbean networks are already under constant attack from hackers from across the world.”

These chilling words came from Gregory Richardson, CEO of US-based computer security firm Leet Networks. Richardson was speaking at a special regional forum for computer professionals recently organized by the Caribbean Network Operators Group, CaribNOG.

According to Richardson, organizations in the region and around the world are storing and increasing amount information on computer networks. ‘There is a dangerous flip side to this explosion in electronic data. As computer networks connect to the Internet they are susceptible to attack and authorized access by modern day digital pirates known as computer hackers.’

Drawing on several recent real-world examples of incidents his firm has had to respond to in the Caribbean and in the US, Richardson warned that “business and governments that are ill-prepared can suffer significant loss in time, productivity, money, and consumer confidence.”

Richard explained that accessing personal or corporate information without authorization is a serious offence and one that could have serious repercussions.  He urge the gathering to be very careful about network security and ensuring that technical staff is properly trained to detect and respond to computer attacks.'

Organizer of the event, Bevil Wooding explained, The objective of the CaribNOG St Lucia meeting was to bring attention the threats Governments and business face from computer attacks and to provide a forum for the free exchange of ideas and experiences between those responsible for managing our networks.’

Wooding, a Trinidad-born technology expert, led the CaribNOG team of ethical hackers from the US and the Caribbean that shared practical measures to help protect corporate networks and data from online hackers.

According to Wooding, “An ethical hacker is a basically a computer expert who attacks a security system on behalf of its owners, seeking vulnerabilities that a malicious hacker could exploit. They are the good guys.”

He explained that in order to test a security system, ethical hackers use some of the same techniques as their less principled counterparts, but report problems and help resolve vulnerabilities instead of taking advantage of them.

Wooding cautioned, 'Hacking presents a very real and serious risk to consumers, businesses and governments in the Caribbean and around the world. Some people mistakenly believe that smaller companies are less likely to be a target of attacks. But as large companies strengthen their network security, hackers are increasingly focusing on small and medium-sized businesses. This makes the Caribbean a very attractive location for hackers.”

The CaribNOG team stressed that it is vitally important that organizations and individuals take the necessary steps to protect their identities and to secure private and corporate data.

‘At first look, network security might seem too complex, and tackling it might seem like too much work, particularly for small businesses.  Modern organizations should view security planning as essential as accounting, sales and advertising.

This is not a stretch since, for many firms, computer networks have become a basic part of doing business today.’ The good news is, according to Wooding. ‘It is possible to take a step-by-step approach, and instead of thinking about computer security as a technical concern, consider it a business continuity issue.’

CaribNOG is a growing volunteer community of technology practitioners dedicated to exchanging technical information and experiences related to the management of computer networks and information management systems in the Caribbean region.