by Marlon Madden
Government is taking the issue of cyber security seriously and will continue to do what is necessary to protect its information technology systems from cyber breaches as the digitisation process continues.
This assurance has come from Minister of Industry, Innovation, Science and Technology Davidson Ishmael, who indicated that the information communication technology (ICT) departments within Government was in the process of being strengthened.
This comes three months after government was forced to shut down its entire IT platform after a ransomware attack. Ishmael said there have already been several discussions since the attack, and a reform of government’s ICT platform was being carried out, which will include ongoing training of IT personnel in those departments.
“Discussions are taking place right now in terms of how we actually restructure the public service relative to our ICT departments and units. Right now, we have a situation where almost every department . . . has an IT person or an IT department and each of them can be doing things different. So we have had internal dialogue within my ministry relative to how can we unify those
so that everybody is singing from the same hymn sheet,” he said.
“If it means that we have to create an overarching unit within the ministry that is then charged with the responsibility for monitoring, regulating, checking on, training and facilitating those various elements that are necessary relative to cyber security and all other aspects of ICT, that is something we are currently exploring within the ministry, but there will be tremendous ongoing training because cyber security is something you have to stay on top of on a daily basis so that is going to require a lot of robust continuous training so that we keep our people up to scratch,” he explained.
Ishmael was addressing the recent virtual 48th annual general meeting of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Barbados (ICAB). He acknowledged that with rapid internet growth globally over the last few years there has also been an increase in “cyber criminality”, and this was a cause for concern.
“While digital technologies expand the possibilities for people to enjoy freedoms and the right to access information and knowledge, reacting to emerging threats such as cybercrime and cyber terrorism has become a top priority for all governments. Thus, a focus on cyber security is critical as we as a government move forward rapidly with our digital transformation agenda,” he said.
He said as more small and medium-sized enterprises transition to an e-commerce platform it was necessary for Government to focus on e-governance security measures and national security policies to ensure resilient IT infrastructures and services.
“Hardly a week goes by without news of a security breach in some part of the world, and some are particularly worrying because of the scope and scale of the data breach and the substantial impact not only to the organisation, but also its stakeholders,” said Ishmael.
“These breaches are especially worrying when perpetrated against national critical infrastructure,” he added, as he recalled that government was forced to shut down its entire IT platform earlier this year following a ransomware attack.
He noted that prior to the pandemic Government was engaging one of the world’s leading cyber security firms to carry out an assessment of the cyber security needs of the island, which should indicate that the Mia Mottley-led administration was serious about taking the issue of cyber security seriously. “We have already begun to actively engage in cyber security planning activities and activities with the establishment of a cyber security working group.
The cyber security working group meets periodically to provide guidance and recommendations on cyber security policies and strategies, considering the international and regional dynamics of the country,” he said. The aim of this group, said Ishmael, is to adopt, monitor, prevent, mitigate and address current and emerging cyber security threats and data misuse.