Mitigating cyber-attacks in the Caribbean

Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General Luis Almagro.
Associated Press / Jacquelyn Martin

The Washington, D.C-based Organization of American States (OAS) says it has collaborated with Microsoft in launching the report, “Critical Infrastructure Protection in Latin America and the Caribbean 2018,” which makes recommendations to develop a suitable critical infrastructure or policy framework in the region.

The OAS said some of the practices recommended in the report include, which was launched on Monday, include Ensuring clear division of responsibilities; establishing security baselines; developing early warning mechanisms; investing in human and technical resources; improving cyber resilience; and participating in international networks to understand the threat landscape.

The OAS said the report is a result of joint efforts with Microsoft “to empower governments in Latin America and the Caribbean to respond and investigate cyber incidents, and reflects what is currently being done to limit the vulnerability of critical infrastructure to cyber-attacks across the region.”

In addition, the document says that while there is collaboration between the public and private sector, and a growing awareness of cybersecurity issues, “more could be done to protect vital assets.”

It says critical infrastructure includes services essential to the well-functioning of a society, such as financial services, energy, communications and water supply.

The report includes a survey that collected responses from more than 500 owners and operators of critical infrastructure.

The document underscores that 69 percent of respondents indicated they have noticed an increase in the number of attacks to their computer systems and / or networks over the last 12 months, and 57 percent of the respondents indicated they did not have a dedicated budget for cybersecurity measures, according to the OAS.

It said the report also notes positive results: Among those respondents with a dedicated budget, 59 percent indicated budgets have increased within the last year.

“The results of this report reaffirm the need for regional leaders to strengthen their efforts to protect the breadth of our critical national assets,” said OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro. “As a region, we have been able to make great strides, and we continue improving effective cooperation in hemispheric security, but there still much ground to cover.

“In the OAS, though the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE) and its Cybersecurity Program, we are ready to continue supporting member states to protect against these threats,” he added. “At the same time, we urge governments and the industry to increase investments and efforts in the protection of the digital space, and above all, promote initiatives that enhance digital security knowledge for all citizens.”

With great challenges ahead and more sophisticated threats waiting for an opportunity to do harm, the OAS said it is important to highlight that, by strengthening the partnership between public and private organizations, it is possible to respond and be prepared for future cyberattacks.

“Microsoft is committed to be a leader in privacy and security,” said Robert Ivanschitz, assistant general counsel for Microsoft Latin America. “Yet, cybersecurity is a pressing issue that cannot be resolved by a single entity. It has become a shared responsibility between multiple players, and the success will include working broadly with the public and private sector.”

The OAS said Microsoft’s focus on cybersecurity spans over four decades, adding that company’s commitment in this area is “evidenced by a unique posture to better protect and defend customers, including new security features at every level of the technology stack and fostering a vibrant ecosystem of partners to raise the bar across the industry.”

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