Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Businesses warned to take cybersecurity seriously

Published:Friday | July 22, 2016 | 7:00 AM
Edward "Teddy" Alexander of tTech Limited.

 

It's an increasing concern worldwide and, as it turns out, here in Jamaica. So the Jamaican Government has rolled out a $15-million education programme aimed at combating cybercrime - a problem that bears a US$3-trillion price tag worldwide.

The campaign has debuted amid signs that increasingly businesses, Government and the public are being attacked, and are vulnerable, at a time when "Internet use is increasing and increasing rapidly," according to Trevor Forrest, senior adviser to the minister of science, energy and technology. It's a collaboration of the ministry, eGov, and the Jamaica Bankers Association.

"We have a slogan 'Stop and think before you click'," Forrest told the Financial Gleaner. "Given all the threats that are out there, you have to stop and think of where you go online, given the kind of material that you may view, or, in some cases, your children, and the effect that it may have on your devices."

The same principle applies to workplace activity, he said, noting that an infection of malware and even ransomware that can harm businesses, leading to huge losses. The public education programme will utilise all media channels, said the tech official, who praised the banks, and National Commercial Bank Jamaica in particular, for their support.

The 'Stop.Think.Connect' campaign was first unveiled in January 2015, but just got going a week ago.

It's understandable that financial institutions would be on board for the campaign. It is now typical for persons to receive phishing messages urging update of banking records or enticements into some scheme; and recently, institutions like Bank of Jamaica and the Jamaica Stock Exchange have had to be issuing alerts warning about suspicious mail that purports to be from their institutions.

At the seminar, Forrest warned that it's a mistake for small Jamaican businesses

to see themselves as too insignificant a target for a cyberattack.

"The small businesses that we have in countries like Jamaica represent low-hanging fruit, and hackers are notoriously lazy. So it is much easier for them to target us than it is for them to target more heavily resourced companies," he said.

He noted that small businesses are especially attractive because they likely do business with bigger institutions and may hold information pertaining to their partners or clients.

Forrest said that in addition to the awareness campaign, Government had introduced technical measures that will strengthen Jamaican systems to ward off cyberattacks; and that alongside the revision and strengthening of the Cyber Crimes Act, human resources was also getting a boost.

Meanwhile, Edward Alexander, CEO of tTech Limited - the firm that the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce collaborated with to stage the cybersecurity seminar on Tuesday - reaffirmed Forrest's message that Jamaican businesses are not immune from attack, amid warnings that redress against a criminal cyber breach could prove difficult.

There is, he said, growing evidence that cybercriminals are exploiting the ease of using the Internet, connectivity and the fact that they can launch an attack from a remote country where Jamaica has no jurisdiction.

"The reward for them is very high. If they can successfully attack, say, 100 people, and they extract from each of them, say, US$500-$1,000 per day, then do the math - the numbers become very significant. When you are untouchable and you have that kind of reward potentially available to you, then you're going to try," Alexander said.

Senior IT security officer at tTech, John Gibson, also urged companies to invest in the protection of their computer systems, saying cybercrime should be seen as a business problem rather than an IT problem.

neville.graham@gleanerjm.com