National Cyber Security Symposium addresses cyber threats in Belize Print E-mail
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Thursday, 27 April 2017 00:00

Fitting seemingly well in current times and events in Belize, especially as it relates to social media, a symposium on the awareness of Cyber Secuirty and cyber bullying is being held on Monday, April 24, 2017 and will carry on until Friday, April 28. The event is being hosted at the Best Western Biltmore through the support of the Public Utilities Commission. The purpose of the forum is to interactively address the issues of cyber threats and security and to implement knowledge on those present while developing a framework by which to adhere.

Day one of the event, April 24, carried a very general note to the attendees. Present was a wide range of professionals and government officials who all gave their view on how to tackle cyber security from a layman aspect to a more legal one.

After protocol was established on the first day, John Avery, Chairman of the PUC, addressed the attendees and reinforced the importance of tackling cyber awareness and security. While speaking, Avery conveyed his gratitude to the Government of Belize for taking the initiative to work closely with the stakeholders and professionals to see the project as developed as it is. According to Avery, there is a great cause of concern with regards to cyber threats not only regionally or internationally, but also nationally.

The executive director of the Caribbean Network Operators Group, Bevil Wooding, then spoke of the relevant questions to ask when taking on such a task. “What can we do?” Wooding asked. His answer was simple: implement interactive solution finding. He explained that to find the most efficient and effective ways of approaching cyber security, users of the internet need to be incorporated to have a real life and real-time impact. His point was that it is imperative to craft something relative to the specific issues in Belize, such as the impacts of the everyday man, those who are ignorant to cyber threats, those overconfident in their knowledge, and even those men on the street.

The following segment briefed those present of the existing efforts to digitize the government and its services. Michael Singh, Chief Technology officer, Office of the Prime Minister, considered the government to be the “gatekeeper of state information” after the government’s 2015 effort to connect natural and corporate citizens to public services. As such, CITO was moved directly to the Office of the PM.

Next to speak was the Special Envoy for Women and Children, Kim Simplis-Barrow. While cellphones have only been around for the last 25 years, approximately 50% of the Belizean population uses cell phones. Simplis-Barrow, being surprised at the statistics, said that more and more of our lives are being shared which makes us more susceptible to the advancing techniques of cyber threats.

Attorney General Hon. Michael Peyrefitte briefly addressed the crowd. Imperative to success, the initiative needs to find a balance between sufficient security and too much security as it pertains to legal aspects. The Hon. Kenneth Benjamin, Chief Justice, also kept the same legal approach. According to Benjamin, the courts struggle with the development of I.T. but judicial officers will soon receive training in cyber crime. Cyber crimes require cyber security. According to Col. (Ret.) George Lovell, Chief Executive Officer, Ministry of Home Affairs, because of the nation’s dependency on information, it is the goal of the ministry to improve cyber security. Threats can compromise the entire functionality of the society and its government.

Last to speak in the first session of day 1 was the Hon. Patrick Faber, Deputy Prime Minister. He mentioned that while there are obvious advantages with technology, users need to be specifically aware of its disadvantages. Young people are especially consumed by social media but everyone is impacted, even “digital immigrants”. To secure cyber usage, everyone is obligated to do their part. Belize’s commitment, according to Faber, will be longterm to protect the society, government, and economy.

On days 2 through 5, more specific issues will be addressed. Day 2 will focus on the public and business sectors to discover approaches to effectively develop cyber policies, securing networks, and securing government electronic services. Days 3 and 4 will take on more legal stances in strengthening and interpreting national, regional, and international laws. During these days, IT professionals will also gain hands-on training in threat detection and data security. On the fifth and final day, a cross-sectional group of stakeholders will be committed to draft Belize’s first National Cyber Security Framework and Action Plan.