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US-funded cyber centre of excellence to boost Jamaica’s safeguards

Published:Thursday | August 11, 2022 | 12:08 AMLester Hinds/Gleaner Writer

THE ESTABLISHMENT of a cyber centre of excellence will put Jamaica’s data and Internet systems on more secure footing to guard against attacks, say cyber experts, in the wake of the US$2-million investment by Washington.

United States Vice-President Kamala Harris tweeted on Tuesday about the founding of the centre. The centre, which will be established in Jamaica, will also serve the wider Caribbean.

New York Police Department Inspector Michael King, who was a member of the city’s Joint Terrorism Task Force alongside the FBI, said that such a centre of excellence will allow for increased cyber awareness.

King, who is Jamaica-born, said that cybersecurity is a still-emerging frontier of attacks on companies and countries – a concern against which societies need to guard.

“The centre of excellence will increase cyber hype. It will inform how to spot and guard against opening up emails and other Internet systems that are unfamiliar to the user.

“In a number of instances, people download things from the Internet without knowing the source of the information. They give out their emails and other personal information without understanding the consequence to themselves and the company or country,” he said.

King said that the cyber centre for excellence will ensure that network administrators, in both the private and public sectors, are equipped to deal with the possible attacks they could face.

He said further that the centre will protect critical infrastructure such as health, water, power, among others, against possible attacks. It could also be used for the recruitment of top cyber professionals, he said.

King noted that many of Jamaica’s systems are old, inefficient, and susceptible to attacks.

The centre, he said, could even send in inspectors to review systems and suggest updates, where necessary.

“In effect, the cyber centre of excellence would be watching over private or public networks,” he said.

Cybersecurity expert Michael Morsby said the cyber centre of excellence will benefit Jamaica enormously, as businesses lose thousands of dollars daily as a result of unscreened downloads, opening up the risk of ransomware attacks.

Morsby, who is also Jamaican and owns his own cyber company, noted that simple social-media forays can make a user vulnerable to exposing personal data.

“You open up something from an email that you do no know and immediately, all your personal data is exposed. It takes time to have all this information retrieved from the dark web. This results in loss time and money,” Morsby said.

He said that a wide-ranging educational programme will allow people to understand attacks and learn to guard against infiltration.

“It means having people trained to understand what is involved,” he said.

Cybersecurity is the new frontier for attacks, according to both King and Morsby.

The governor of New York recently announced the formation of a Joint Security Operations Center to oversee state cybersecurity.

The centre will serve as a first-of-its-kind hub for data sharing and cyber coordination across the entire state. The centre in New York will help bolster cyber defences across the state.