Early November 2019, the Curaçao Ministry of Government, Planning and Services (BPD) was hacked. The responsible minister promised swift action which never came. Members of Parliament have remained eerily silent on this matter. Making matters worse is that sensitive personnel information has been compromised. Let’s not forget that BPD is responsible for elections, national archives and statistics.
This is probably neither the first, nor the last of such attacks here. Cyber security incidents in the Caribbean are more widespread than is actually known. Recently Bahamas and Sint Vincent & the Grenadines saw some government websites purportedly manipulated by terrorists. To understand the scale of the problems that need to be addressed one only has to read: Cyber security: Are We Ready in Latin America and the Caribbean jointly published last year by the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
Many agree that we are not properly equipped to deal with cyber attacks from terrorist groups or from other countries such as Iran, Russia and China, all of whom are known to maintain well trained cyber armies. Earlier I wrote about the presence of Russian operatives in our area and the new Cold War in the Caribbean. The heightened tension between Iran and the U.S. could mean more risk of cyber attacks by Iran and/or its proxies like Hezbollah which is known to be very active in neighboring Venezuela.
No nation by itself can secure its networks. The very nature of the internet is it borderlessness which begs for cooperation. Are we seeking cooperation? Do we have an overseeing coordinating body? Why have we not participated in the latest OAS/IBD regional study? How vulnerable are we regarding a possible disruption of future elections? Why has the BPD minister and Parliament remained silent so far? What does the hacking last year mean for the thousands of people whose information has been compromised? What happened with the Information Protection Policy drafted by Government in 2016? Why hasn’t it been implemented?
We need our authorities to come out of hiding and be forthcoming. Hopefully the BPD incident serves as a timely reality check.
Alex David Rosaria (53) is a freelance consultant active in Asia & Pacific. He is a former Member of Parliament, Minister of Economic Affairs, State Secretary of Finance and UN Implementation Officer in Africa and Central America. He’s from Curaçao and has a MBA from the University of Iowa. (USA).