Networks of Trust: Caribbean needs to strengthen its Internet infrastructure

Electronic security threats levels are on the rise globally, and the stakes are getting higher. Kaspersky Lab’s Global IT Risks Report (2014) estimated that, after a data breach, small and medium sized business could spend up to $22,000 on staffing, training, and systems. Larger enterprises could potentially spend up to an additional $59,000 on staffing, $35,000 on training, and $75,000 on systems, the report said.

The Caribbean is far from exempt. Computer networks in both the public and private sector are increasingly under attack by a variety of malicious sources, and successful attacks can cause physical damage, economic loss and other cascading effects that could disrupt services, communications or trade.

The engineering needed to strengthen the region’s digital defenses is not only technical but social, says Bill Woodcock, Executive Director of Packet Clearing House, a US-based non-profit research organisation. Speaking on cyber security at the recently held Grenada ICT Week, in St. Georges, Woodcock said the key is to strengthen the region’s Internet infrastructure.

"One of the best strategies for governments and businesses to strengthen security is to invest in critical internet infrastructure and strengthen the human resource capacity within the region to analyse vulnerabilities, verify emerging threats, and execute mitigation strategies," he said.

Establishing resources such as Internet exchange points, domain root servers within the region is key to improving the resilience and reliable of Internet services to citizens and businesses, he said, adding that building and educating the regional technical community is a vital component in protecting against cyberattacks.

Woodcock commended the work of the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG) and the Caribbean Telecommunications Union in creating greater awareness about cyber security issues across the region.

“Threat detection and response has been a challenge for governments and private sector for years," said Stephen Lee, CEO of ArkiTechs Inc and a cybersecurity expert at CaribNOG. “Having a region-wide community committed to defending networks at the local and regional level makes a huge difference to minimising the havoc hackers can wreak.”

The volunteer-based CaribNOG group has staged a series of workshops and public awareness events to help organisations and network administrators across the region tackle the increasing barrage of cyber threats and attacks.

Countries, particularly in resourced constrained developing regions, are only just beginning to understand the complex, cross-border nature of the challenge being faced, and the damaging consequences, Woodcock explained.

“As government networks, financial institutions and even small business come under attack, the urgency to train personnel, strengthen computer systems and update antiquated laws and policy is becoming apparent,” said Woodcock.

"Public-good, technical communities like CaribNOG, and other Network Operators group around the world play an important role in implementing solutions and safeguards to protect the Internet."

Originally published on Trinidad and Tobago Guardian