One of Barbados’ top security officials is warning that cyber attacks and fraud will become more prolific in Barbados and the rest of the region as countries engage in more e-commerce and online methods of doing business.
Executive Director of the Regional Security System (RSS) Captain Errington Shurland gave this assessment on Wednesday as he pointed out that over the past year there has been an increase in such criminal activity in some jurisdictions.
And indicating that the region was still not adequately prepared to deal with those threats, Shurland proposed that special attention be given to these types of crimes by law enforcement similar to the focus that is given to drug and gun activity.
His comments came as he addressed the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) 65th annual health research conference, held under the theme Pandemic, NCDs and Climate Change; The Caribbean’s Triple Threat.
Shurland, who participated in a panel discussion, said the RSS noticed that while issues relating to security was “quietened during the lockdowns”, there was a noticeable uptick in some criminal activities post lockdown.
“What has really taken off is cyber crime and cyber criminal activity, and the trade in counterfeit and substandard goods as well as different types of frauds and schemes linked to organised property crime.
“This, I am afraid, is going to be the modus operandi of criminal activity in the future as we embrace e-commerce, as we embrace more and more training, as we embrace education on digital platforms and meetings on digital platforms. Criminals will have new and adapted ways of attacking our people by using the virtual platform,” Shurland warned.
He said the pandemic had reinforced the need for partnerships with international development partners.
“Multilateralism has to be the platform, the route, the mechanism, that we must of necessity use.
“It is the only route that we have available, and while we have the capacity to do limited response within the region, we have to raise the conversation within international fora to highlight not only what we can do, but more importantly how the global village must work to treat to such a pandemic as COVID-19,” he said.
Pointing to the attack on a major US fuel pipeline last month, which resulted in it going offline for several days, Shurland said as the use of online learning and transaction methods increase, so too will the attacks and the impact could be far reaching.
“The fact that we are more and more going to be using digital media, that is where I see our biggest challenge. And one of the vulnerabilities in the region is that I don’t think we are properly prepared for that type of threat,” he said.
“We need now to look at cyber crime as perhaps up there with gun crime and drugs and be properly prepared, whether it is you have your CCERP (cybersecurity education, research and practice) that can do that investigation, to be able to be proactive enough to recognize that there is a vulnerability and be prepared to respond to that vulnerability,” he said.
Providing a brief synopsis of a portion of the RSS’ work during the past year of the COVID-19 pandemic, Shurland reported that the Barbados-based unit, which was set up to react to the security needs of member states, has completed over 250 flights across the region as a result of the pandemic.
“We actually did our first movement of samples on February 12, 2020,” he said.
“Thus far, we have done 256 flights and over 1,200 flying hours, and this is to move COVID samples to the CARPHA lab, repatriation of individuals for medical treatment on humanitarian grounds, movement of medical personnel, the movement of medical technicians, the movement of PPE and other COVID-19 related supplies like sanitizers and bleach and so on,” said Shurland.
“What that did say to us is that as a region we have to be flexible enough and resilient enough to be able to respond to any type of scenario,” he said.