Home Global-ICTGlobal-ICT 2012 Strengthening cyber security in the Americas

Strengthening cyber security in the Americas

by david.nunes
Ambassador Jorge Skinner-KléeIssue:Global 2012
Article no.:5
Topic:Strengthening cyber security in the Americas
Author:Ambassador Jorge Skinner-Klée
Title:Permanent Representative of Guatemala
Organisation:Organization of American States
PDF size:267KB

About author

Ambassador Jorge Skinner-Klée is the Permanent Representative of Guatemala to the Organization of American States and current Chair of its Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE).

Prior to his current posting, he was Guatemala’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, and was the Vice-President of UNICEF. In 2004 he became Guatemala’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs after holding ambassadorships in Honduras, Belize, Canada, and Germany.

Article abstract

The marked increase in Internet penetration in Latin American and Caribbean countries has brought about many benefits but has also spawned threats. Policymakers and other stakeholders in the region have had to devise new frameworks, mechanisms and strategies to defend against these threats. Member States of the OAS now understand the importance of enhancing the security of critical information infrastructure and sectors that rely on networked control systems like communications, energy, finance, and transportation.

Full Article

Over the past ten years Latin American and Caribbean countries have experienced one of the highest rates of growth in Internet users per capita – around 1,000 percent in Central and South America, and upwards of 1,400 percent in the Caribbean, compared to an increase of just 600 percent in Asia and half or less than that in Europe and North America.

This increased use has yielded a bounty of opportunities and has become a platform that enables and propels commerce, e-governance, and social interaction. While this marked increase in Internet penetration has undoubtedly brought about many benefits for our society, the dependence it has created has also spawned threats that may undermine the very purposes for which the internet and communication technologies (ICTs) were developed.

The evolution in recent years of cyber-related threats to governments and citizens has heightened concern regarding the actual and potential use of the Internet for criminal and even terrorist purposes, and has prompted policymakers and other stakeholders in the region to consider the need to devise new frameworks, mechanisms and strategies to defend against these threats.

In recent years, the Organization of American States (OAS) and its Inter American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE) have been working to strengthen Member States’ capabilities to confront the plethora of cyber security threats facing our region and the whole world. Buoyed by trust and confidence achieved through its collaboration with all Member States, OAS/CICTE has been able to assume an active leadership role in cyber security capacity building in the region, and its workshops and courses have become a premier forum in the Americas for discussing current and future cyber-related issues and initiatives, in both domestic and international settings.

Recognizing the growing importance of protecting ICT infrastructure, in 2004 the OAS Member States unanimously adopted the Comprehensive Inter-American Cyber Security Strategy, which called for an unprecedented degree of cooperation that had not been seen at the regional level. This strategy called for, among other things, establishing 24/7 National Computer Security Incident Response Teams (CSIRTs), and raising awareness of the importance of cyber security in the highest levels of government. The CICTE Secretariat has pursued several avenues to achieve the duties it had been tasked with.

Capacity building

Since the adoption of the Inter-American Strategy, offering technical training courses has been a staple of capacity building efforts. These courses vary in scope, with topics including Establishing and Managing a CSIRT, Beginning and Advanced Incident Handling Courses, and generalized Information Security, among others. These events often bring together technicians from neighboring countries, fostering discussion and networking which has in turn built a close community of incident responders in the hemisphere, where counterparts are able to form bonds over incident response issues.

Aside from technical capacity building, raising awareness of cyber issues and accompanying policy considerations at the highest levels of government has been a priority for the OAS. Without the interest of policy-makers, cyber security tends to lag behind areas historically considered more important for security and development. These efforts have included national stakeholder coordination meetings and national cyber security strategy development workshops.

Once a critical mass of awareness and interest has been raised, as has happened in several instances in Member States with the help of OAS/CICTE workshops, a nation is prepared to take concrete measures to enhance cyber security and begin forming a national cyber security strategy, which goes great lengths in preventing, mitigating, and organizing the response to cyber incidents. These strategies also delineate how the public and private sectors work together, which is especially important in the region, as private entities own and operate most of the information infrastructure on which countries depend.

During the past three decades we have been witness to the evolution of cyber threats. In the ‘80s we were worried about a virus affecting a single machine, whereas nowadays an escalated and well prepared cyber attack can destabilize a nation and have transnational ramifications. Since the 1980s and with evolving methods, criminals have constantly renewed their resolve to damage our networks and defraud our citizens.

To renew our own will to combat these criminals, Guatemala, in March of 2012 as the Chair of CICTE, proposed a Declaration on Strengthening Cyber Security in the Americas. This declaration was adopted unanimously by the OAS Member States and has elevated the importance of enhancing the security and increasing resilience of critical information infrastructure moving forward, with a particular focus on institutions essential to both national security and sectors that rely on networked control systems like communications, energy, finance, and transportation.

The OAS has employed an integral approach to cyber security in the Americas in combating a phenomenon that is as complex as it is harmful. This approach seeks to allow for government and citizen alike to take advantage of the enormous power of information technology. All of this is done in an environment that maintains the freedom of expression and the free flow of information, which are absolutely essential for the innovation and function of the networks that sustain economic growth and social development.


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