Defending Caribbean Networks: CaribNOG Strengthens Regional Technical Community

Recent attacks on Caribbean computer networks by Internet hackers should be a major concern for Caribbean businesses and governments.

“Computer hacking is a global problem," technology expert Bevil Wooding said at the fifth regional meeting of the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG) in Bridgetown, Barbados.

"As the region increases in its dependence on information and communication technologies, it must at the same time build greater capacity to manage and protect its technology assets."

Wooding gave several examples from around the world of volunteer groups of ethical hackers who had mobilised to protect their local and regional networks.

“Since the Caribbean is no less vulnerable to cyberattacks, we must make similar investments in the development of our human resources. The region needs a trustworthy technical community, capable of defending Caribbean networks. CaribNOG is key part of the response to that challenge,” he said.

The Barbados meeting, CaribNOG’s largest to date, drew 100 tech practitioners from around the region and as far away as Africa, Europe and New Zealand. In his address, Wooding, one of the co-founders of CaribNOG, described the meetings as “invaluable for advancing the skills of the region’s ICT professionals who design, procure, operate, manage and secure the network infrastructure.”

The CaribNOG 5 program included a mix of hands-on technical training sessions delivered by regional and international facilitators. Topics covered over the three-day event included cybersecurity, Internet Exchange Point management, IPv6 deployment and DNSSEC implementation techniques.

“We need more people in the Caribbean with an advanced understanding network engineering. Diligent enough to stay current. But also bold enough to experiment and innovate to solve local as well as global needs.”

One major issue discussed at the event was the changeover from IPv4 to IPv6.

IPv4 protocol was developed as a management tool providing addresses for all devices that use the Internet in the 1970s and published in 1981. However, the number of devices now connected to the Internet may be equal to or exceed the global population. This explosion of IP enabled devices on the market has exhausted addresses under the IPv4 protocol.

Its replacement, IPv6, is the next-generation protocol, providing approximately 340 undecillion addresses (340 trillion trillion trillion) IP addresses. This is calculated to be sufficient to ensure the availability of IP addresses to meet the needs of the rapidly growing Internet, far into the future.

Wooding, an Internet Strategist with US-based research firm Packet Clearing House (PCH), also touched on the status of Internet Exchange Point (IXP) proliferation in the region. An IXP’s primary purpose is to allow networks to interconnect directly, resulting in savings in cost of delivering local Internet traffic, reduced latency and increased network resilience.

He charged participants to “embrace the opportunity to cooperate for the greater good”.

The three-day event was jointly hosted by the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) and Packet Clearing House (PCH), with the support of the Government of Barbados, The Internet Society (ISOC), the Latin American and Caribbean Internet Addresses Registry (LACNIC) and Columbus Communications.