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Belize’s recently concluded national cybersecurity symposium brought together bankers and customers to put a spotlight on the growing incidence of cybercrimes against financial institutions.

Caribbean Banks See Rise In Cyber Attacks

BELIZE CITY, Belize Imagine doing a routine check on your bank account only to discover that an entire month’s worth of credit had been swiped from your card. The nightmare became reality for one elderly Belizean couple, who fell victim to identity theft.

For Alejandro and Leandra Chulin, the story started five years ago with a troubling phone call from their son, who was at the time studying abroad. He had been trying to use their credit card but couldn’t. A few quick checks with the bank confirmed their worst fears. Someone had already maxed out the limit, racking up enough purchases to leave the Chulins in the hole to the tune of several hundreds.

The money was recovered but the trauma remains. And now that Belize is taking much-needed steps to address identity theft and other cyber threats, the Chulins are making the most of an unprecedented opportunity to lend their voice to the national effort and to learn how to be more cyber safe.

The country’s recently concluded national cybersecurity symposium brought together bankers and customers to put a spotlight on the growing incidence of cybercrimes against banks. While the Chulins sat in a forum designed to explain cyber threats to the general public, the country’s finance sector representatives gathered at the Central Bank for a special forum focusing on practical strategies to defend against escalating cyber attacks against financial institutions.

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.

The nation of Belize is taking an important step in responding to cybercrime, by upgrading of the capacity of its judiciary.

Caribbean Courts Need to be Better Prepared to Judge Cybercrimes

Judicial Education urgently needed, says Belize Chief Justice
Institutions worldwide are finding it hard to keep up with the rapid pace of advance in computer-based technology. This is all the more so for courts, which are typically steeped in tradition and ponderously slow to change. Globally, systems of justice are struggling to keep track of the sophisticated, rapidly evolving operations of modern cyber crime.

But one Caribbean nation is tackling the issue head on, providing an interesting pattern for other countries of the region. The nation of Belize is taking an important step in responding to cybercrime, by upgrading of the capacity of its judiciary.

"Cybercrime and cyber issues must now have a prominent place in judicial education," said Kenneth Benjamin, Chief Justice of Belize.

In Belize, the legislative framework already supports the admission of evidence electronically. However, no laws are yet on the books to specifically criminalise the growing incidence of Internet-based wrongdoings.

A cybercrime bill is expected to come into force soon, though. With that impending legislation, the Chief Justice plans to fast track judicial education, focusing on technology developments generally and cybercrime specifically.

"The introduction of new laws must be accompanied by the development of policy and of regulations guiding the detection, investigation and prosecution of any alleged cyber misdeeds," Benjamin said, adding that only a few judicial officers had already received cybercrime training to date.

The Chief Justice was speaking at Belize's first-ever national cybersecurity symposium, held in Belize City from April 24 to 28.

A special forum at the event included judicial officers and magistrates and focused on how cybercrime has been affecting the judiciary globally.

The weeklong gathering was organised jointly by Belize's Public Utilities Commission and by the Caribbean Network Operators Group, a volunteer-based organisation focused on training programs to build the region's technical capabilities and safeguard computer networks.

"This event marks an important milestone for the region's judiciary, and signals a new collaboration between Caribbean jurists and the region's technology community," said Bevil Wooding, a co-organiser of the event and an Internet Strategist with US-based non-profit firm, Packet Clearing House.

The symposium drew nationwide attention, with more than 700 stakeholders taking par, including members of the Bar Association, military and law enforcement officers, representatives of the business chamber, the Central Bank, the association of ICT professionals, and many concerned citizens.

"The forum marks the beginning of a process of sensitisation, and we plan to continue collaborating with the CaribNOG team to develop future training interventions for our jurists," Benjamin said.

Caption: Chief Justice of Belize, Kenneth Benjamin, speaks on the opening day of the country's first-ever national symposium on cyber security, held at Best Western, Biltmore Plaza, Belize City from April 24 to 28, 2017. Photo courtesy Caribbean Network Operators Group.

A series of forums involving the public sector, general public, business community, law enforcement and judiciary and network operators will culminates in the presentation of Belize’s first National Cyber Security Strategy and Action Plan.

Protecting Belize’s Cyber Security Infrastructure

The first of its kind National Cyber Security Symposium opened today at the Biltmore Plaza Hotel. The Public Utilities Commission is teaming up with other stakeholders to explore international trends and approaches for protecting public sector networks and developing effective cyber-policy and legislation. But what does it all mean for you, and why should you be concerned whether you have the latest I-Phone or stick to the analog?