LACNIC

Tech experts talk regional cyber security at CaribNOG

Shernon Osepa, the Curacao-born manager of regional affairs for the Internet Society (ISOC) Latin America and the Caribbean, is interviewed by Guardian New Media Editor Gerard Best, at CaribNOG 8, Hilton Curacao, Willemstad, September 30. PHOTO: GERARD BESTCyber security was top of the agenda as over 80 technology professionals from 15 countries gathered in Curacao for the second day of a major regional technology conference. And one expert the issue of data collection

The meeting is the eighth regional gathering of the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG).

Because technology plays such an important role in the region’s development, cybersecurity is a major concern, said Shernon Osepa, the Curacao-born manager of regional affairs for the Internet Society (ISOC) Latin America and the Caribbean.

“A lot of commercial banks in the region are being attacked, but they simply don’t report when these attacks are done. So we know that they are happening but we don’t know to what extent,” Osepa said.

“These attacks are being masterminded by people who are highly educated, technically competent and very knowledgeable about Caribbean security vulnerabilities. This is their full-time job. And it is a global industry.”

 Osepa, alongside Albert Daniels, manager of stakeholder engagement for the Caribbean at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), delivered the day’s first presentations, which focused on the need to secure critical Caribbean Internet infrastructure.

“2013 was the year of the mega-breach,” Daniels said, explaining that the number of security breaches reported internationally hit a high last year, a trend that has continued in 2014.

 Daniels said the region’s businesses, governments and citizens needed to better understand the real-world repercussions of unsafe practices in the digital realm.

 One important aspect of education, he said, was to develop the practice of reporting confirmed or suspected cases of computer hacking, identity theft and other kinds of Internet-based criminal activity.

“If you live in the Caribbean, don’t think that the hackers are not trying to use our systems to perpetuate their crime. Even in the countries where there are few reports, that simply means that attacks are going unreported.”

Without reporting, decision-makers are unable to make informed decisions to properly address cybersecurity issues, said Elgeline Martis, head of the Caribbean Cyber Emergency Response Team.

“We in the Caribbean are not collecting data, so we cannot support our decision makers in taking the right cyber security measures. We need to start collecting our own data,” she said.

“For example, if we collect data and we see that spam is a big issue, then we are able to tell decision-makers they should invest in solving problems with spam. You always need updated facts and figures to support informed decision-making.”

Experts join heads on Caribbean cybersecurity

Carlos Martinez (second from left), chief technology officer of the regional Internet registry for Latin American and the Caribbean (LACNIC) and Mark Korsters, chief technical officer of the American Registry of Internet Numbers (ARIN), talk with media at CaribNOG 8, Hilton Curacao, Willemstad, September 30. Photo courtesy: LACNIC.
Carlos Martinez (second from left), chief technology officer of the regional Internet registry for Latin American and the Caribbean (LACNIC) and Mark Korsters, chief technical officer of the American Registry of Internet Numbers (ARIN), talk with media at CaribNOG 8, Hilton Curacao, Willemstad, September 30. Photo courtesy: LACNIC.

The best way to improve the security of a computer network is to break into it.
That was the advice from cybersecurity expert Fernando Gont of SI6 Networks, speaking at the eighth regional gathering of the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG) now underway in Curacao.

The slate of expert speakers presenting on cyber security included Mark Kosters, chief technical officer with the American Registry of Internet Numbers (ARIN) and Carlos Martínez, chief technology officer at LACNIC, who took a practical and in-depth look at the nuts and bolts of Internet security.

Martinez said he was “very, very disappointed” with the security industry because their operations were being motivated by the wrong incentives. He compared digital security to national security.

“It works the same way as a private prison. Their best interest is to keep things in a bad state. Their best business comes about by having a bad security situation. What is the financial incentive for them to improve the overall security situation? The best interest of the private prison is to have many prisoners but is that in the best interest of society? No, but the financial incentives of the security industry are wrong.”

Apart from cyber security, the meeting covers a range of technology topics including cloud computing, critical Internet infrastructure and mobile broadband.

For the group the social networking is as important as the computer networking. Between and after highly technical sessions, participants linger in pockets of conversation.

“The CaribNOG meeting is an interesting gathering where competitors in daily business become colleagues with the common interest in defending Caribbean networks,” said Bevil Wooding, one of the CaribNOG founders and an organiser of the weeklong event.

Interactions over meals and side meetings during breaks are a regular and important feature of the conference, which attracts technology professionals representing diverse interests from around the region and across the world.

The event is being held at the Hilton Curacao, Willemstad from September 29 to October 3.