Jamaica gov’t working with hackers; moves to boost cyber security

(Jamaica Observer) Government has formed an alliance with a group of ‘ethical hackers’ as part of efforts to beef up the country’s resistance to cybercrimes.

An ethical hacker is a computer and network wizard who attacks a security system on behalf of its owners with the aim of finding weaknesses a malicious hacker could abuse. In testing a security system, ethical hackers use the same techniques as their ill-intentioned counterparts, but report problems instead of taking advantage of them.

According to minister of state in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Julian Robinson, the renegade step is beneficial.

“It’s quite legitimate to get somebody and say go and test what I have put together (website) and see where the loopholes are so I can build a defence against it. That is commonplace in the private sector and that’s not an issue, you just have to hope that the ethical hackers remain ethical,” he noted.

Julian Robinson, minister of state in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, gestures while addressing yesterday’s Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange. Flanking him are (from left) Tracey-Ann Johnson, acting head of the Cybercrimes Unit in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions; Inspector Warren Williams, head of the police Cybercrimes Unit; and Wahkeen Murray, chief technical director in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining.
Julian Robinson, minister of state in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, gestures while addressing yesterday’s Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange. Flanking him are (from left) Tracey-Ann Johnson, acting head of the Cybercrimes Unit in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions; Inspector Warren Williams, head of the police Cybercrimes Unit; and Wahkeen Murray, chief technical director in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining.

“There are some that we are in touch with, a group of youngsters who have done some good work in identifying Government agencies that have been the subject of attack and have actually come to us and said “this has been done” even before some of the agencies know,” Robinson told reporters and editors at the weekly Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange at the newspaper’s Beechwood Avenue head office in St Andrew yesterday.

He, however, noted that not all hackers who regarded themselves as “ethical” have pure motives.

“We know those who are genuinely trying to assist and we are working with those, but you have another category who do it for financial gain,” Robinson said.

In the meantime, he said the Government has taken other specific steps to ensure that Jamaica can adequately respond to cybercrimes and deal with what is now becoming a major threat.

“There are a number of activities we have done on the legislative side, the Cybercrimes Act 2010, which is to be reviewed every two years. We have established a Joint Select Committee, we have considered all the recommendations from the submissions that have been made and we intend to table a report to both Houses of Parliament by July,” Robinson outlined.

He said while Jamaica might be seen as “a soft target” in the sense that it is not at loggerheads with any global figures, its systems still needed protection. Furthermore, Robinson said the country has already had “serious examples where the systems of the Attorney General’s Department, the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Ministry of Justice were hacked into”.

“Given the critical nature of the data they have, that can prove a threat to national security. We also have institutions like the Electoral Office of Jamaica which have data on every single elector, not just names and address but fingerprints and other bio-data. You have assets which, if they are derailed, can disrupt national life in a significant way,” Robinson noted.

“You have people who will do it for money, you have people who will do it to prove a point, but we in Jamaica can’t be (careless) so we have taken it seriously,” he added.

According to data from the Communication Forensics and Cybercrime Unit, some 229 websites belonging to Government entities, tertiary institutions, and the private sector were hacked last year while just over 140 Government websites were defaced by the hackers.

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