Government Working Diligently to Increase Awareness of Cyber Security Threats

Source: Bahamas Information Services

NASSAU, The Bahamas – As the government advances its plans to transform and digitize its services, thereby making it more convenient for the public to conduct business with the government, the need  to beef up cyber security has significantly risen.

Consequently, the Ministry of Economic Affairs in conjunction with the  Bahamas National Computer Incident Response Team (CIRT), hosted  a two-day inter-ministerial cyber security workshop at Margaritaville Resort on August 16-17, 2023.  In attendance at the opening ceremony were the Minister of National Security, the Hon. Wayne Munroe, Minister of Transport and Housing, the Hon. Jobeth Coleby-Davis and Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Wayde Watson.

Delivering welcome remarks on behalf of the Minister of Economic Affairs was National Coordinator of Information Technology, Patrick Davis.  He said that the government is committed to responding to cyber threats via CIRT as they are cognizant that a major cyber attack would be catastrophic to the economy.  To this end, he said that several steps have been taken to mitigate and/or counter threats including a national cyber resilience strategy, the creation of safe virtual spaces, and educating the public via awareness campaigns among other initiatives.

“This all started with a partnership between the Government and the IDB in 2019 which included the development of the MYGateway platform in 2021,” he said. “Over the next two years, we expect to bring over 200 government services online. We have  also planned for other initiatives including the establishment of a national plan, the creation of a digital ID, the revamping of the government’s website, launch of the government’s portal, e-Health systems, modernizing the Voter Parliamentary System among other services.” He added that with growing reliance on digitization, the need for security has increased in order to minimize the vulnerability of users.

CIRT Manager, Sametria McKinney, served as Moderator. She gave an overview of the work being done by CIRT since being established last year.

Assistant Director of Strategic Services, CARICOM IMPACS, Mr. Earl A. Harris, also delivered remarks, saying that Cyber security is ‘serious’ business with cyber crimes accounting for over $23 trillion in 2023 from $3 trillion in 2021. He said, therefore, that increased awareness is ‘key’ and that strengthening regional security capacity building and partnerships are critical to ensure security to the public.

European Union Ambassador to Jamaica, HE Marianne Van Steen delivered brief remarks via a video presentation. She said that the workshop falls within the scope of the action plan for safety and security in the region, which started four years ago.

Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Wayde Watson said that the government understands the importance of cyber security and recognizes the need to devise a strategy to combat cyber threats and trends occuring in the region. “Cyber threats are here, therefore, conferences like these heighten awareness about global trends so it is necessary to be equipped.”

National Security Minister Wayne Munroe reiterated the government’s commitment to digitization and said that he is cognizant that this also means the threat of cyber crime would be heightened. “Personal and commercial cyber attacks are on the increase, therefore, it is critical to accelerate the country’s cyber security as the human factor presents threats via phishing attacks as more and more services go digital,” he said. “We will push for digitization but recognize our vulnerability to cyber threats. The Bahamas is not unique in this regard, all governments must keep information secure to prevent catastrophic consequences.”

The workshop included panel discussions, presentations and table top activities simulating cyber attacks and investigation methods.

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