Minister Dames: The Bahamas not Immune to Cyber Crimes

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Minister of National Security the Hon. Marvin Dames speaks, on May 10, 2018, during the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation's (BCCEC) Cyber Security Forum, held at the Island House. (BIS Photos/Eric Rose)

During his remarks at the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation’s (BCCEC) Cyber Security Forum, on May 10, 2018, Minister of National Security the Hon. Marvin Dames noted that while The Bahamas, being a member of the global community, has embraced cyber opportunities, it is, of course, not immune to the negative effects of cyber crimes. “With a population of fewer than 400,000 persons, a study conducted by International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in 2016 revealed that approximately 333,143 or 84 percent of the total population accessed the internet at home or via other device types and connections,” Minister Dames said at the event, which was held at the Island House.  “Last year approximately 171 incidences of cyber crimes were reported in The Bahamas, compared to 95 in 2016.

“The cyber activity reflected an 80 percent increase and was inclusive of the crimes such as credit card fraud, identity theft, ransomware, phishing attacks and data loss, all of which are expected to become more common in the future.” Minister Dames said that, in The Bahamas, there are three vital legislative regulations that govern cybersecurity. “The Computer Misuse Act (CMA) which was instituted in 2003 — this Act provides comprehensive criminalization of and procedural law for cybercriminal activity in the country,” he said. “Parliament also signed the Data Protection Act (2003) and the Electronic Communication & Transactions Act (2006).” Both laws, Minister Dames pointed out, safeguard the rights of citizens online and establish norms and regulations for e-commerce and other online services. However, he said, much more work remains and the government is committed to providing the necessary safety and intelligence that will make all safer tomorrow than they were at that time.

“This is of paramount importance because, according to the Organization of American States Cyber Security Report 2016, Latin America and the Caribbean both have the fastest growing Internet populations in the world,” Minister Dames said. “While the region accounts for only a small percentage of global cyber crimes, and with the continued rise of Internet use, corresponding cybersecurity threats highlight the need for the development of effective cyber policies and defenses.” He noted that the OAS report also asserts that regionally, several large-scale data breaches showed that cybercrime remains rampant and threats from cybercriminals continue to menace government, businesses and individual users. “Our Government is cognizant of the fact that much work remains if we are to properly address the cybersecurity challenges that we now face,” he said. “We have already taken decisive action to address this issue. Minister Dames added: “Since addressing your confederation in November 2017, the Royal Bahamas Police Force has formulated a new Cyber Security Unit by combining the Tracing & Forfeiture Section of the Drug Enforcement Unit with the Commercial Crime Section at the Central Detective Unit. In the future, we hope to develop a National Cyber Security Strategy that will aim to fortify the country’s data protection capability by strengthening the cybercrime legislation. The expectation is to protect key industries such as government services, health, utilities, financial services, and container ports from criminal enterprises and criminal activity.”

Minister Dames stated that the global reliance on cyber activities will increase in this century and beyond, and as a tool, the Internet is expected to facilitate multiple legal activities. However, he noted, coupled with that will be cybercriminals using the limitless virtual world to commit cyber crimes. “The challenge as it relates to cybersecurity in the 21st century means that by 2020 it is expected that 80 percent of all countries will have cybersecurity policies and it is expected that 30 percent will have Cabinet or senior government level positions solely focused on cybersecurity,” he said. “Rest assured that the Ministry of National Security is the vanguard of addressing both the national and international safety and security concerns of citizens, residents, and visitors within The Bahamas while being cognizant that we are a part of the global community.” Minister Dames reassured those in attendance that the Government viewed cybersecurity as a serious threat to national security, economic development and way of life.  “Henceforth, we will strategically collaborate with our national, regional and global partners to promote cybersecurity,” he said. I would also like to take this opportunity to encourage business owners and the general public to safeguard your data, money, and identities from cyber criminals, as much as possible. “We will use every tool at our disposal to secure our nation’s cybersecurity and ensure that we are safer today than we were yesterday.”

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