Cybersecurity Needs For Critical Infrastructure
Cybersecurity on critical infrastructure should be top priority for Saint Lucia as the world has gravitated towards a remote working system. Earlier in May 2021, Colonial Pipeline, an American oil pipeline system from Texas that transports gasoline and jet fuel to the Southeastern United States, suffered a ransomware cyberattack that impacted computerized equipment managing the pipeline. This resulted in a complete halt of all the pipeline operations to contain the attack and Colonial Pipeline paid the requested ransom ($5 million USD) within several hours after the attack.
In early June the meat industry suffered a similar cybersecurity attack.” A cyberattack on the world’s largest meat processor forced the shutdown of nine beef plants in the United States on Tuesday, according to union officials, and disrupted production at poultry and pork plants. The attack could upset the nation’s meat markets and raises new questions about the vulnerability of critical American businesses.” How prepared is Saint Lucia for an attack on our critical infrastructure? Do our various critical entities have an incident response plan?
Ransomware in the Caribbean
The Caribbean is firmly in the sights of attackers and will face similar attacks. “The fraudsters who wield ransomware as a weapon have Caribbean firms in their sights. Ransomware attacks against established Caribbean-based organizations are happening and the impact is being felt acutely.” A recent public example is that in 2019, Guyana Power and Light (GPL) publicly disclosed that they faced a cyberattack and rejected the ransom demand. “On Wednesday, February 6, 2019, at approximately 04:21hrs, the Guyana Power and Light Inc. experienced a cyber-attack on the Company’s computerized systems. Upon identification of this cyber-attack, GPL took immediate actions to isolate and prevent further spread of the malware. Permanent corrective measures were taken, which included but was not limited to initiating an Information System quarantine. The perpetrators of this act requested a ransom of bitcoins (digital money) to remove all encryptions from within the network. However, it should be noted that GPL Inc. has not heeded to and will not heed to any such ransom.”
This was also a key topic covered in the recent CaribNOG conference and was highlighted as follows. “This rush to online service delivery has exposed several weak points in the region’s internet infrastructure, human resource capacity and institutional readiness. It is now more challenging than ever before to keep critical local and regional systems secure, resilient and accessible. It is also now more than ever our collective responsibility to ensure that the region is able to effectively address these important issues.” The 2021 Caribbean Cyber Security and Privacy (CSPR) Report provides extensive details on the current cybersecurity status in the Caribbean and has some concerning statistics.
In an article in the Wall Street Journal on Friday June 4th 2021, the FBI Director Christopher Wray compared the current spate of cyberattacks with the challenge posed by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. “There are a lot of parallels, there’s a lot of importance, and a lot of focus by us on disruption and prevention,” Mr. Wray said in an interview Thursday. “There’s a shared responsibility, not just across government agencies but across the private sector and even the average American. The scale of this problem is one that I think the country has to come to terms with,” he said.”
Improving Cybersecurity on Critical Systems
President Biden issued the following executive order on improving the United States Cybersecurity on May 12th. The executive order mandates several basic cybersecurity practices across the US federal government such as multi-factor authentication, encryption and end point detection. Has there been any similar progress from the current administration especially given the continued importance of DigiGov? We need to ensure that our government and private sector make cybersecurity a key priority as critical information such as our financial data (online tax submission) or health data (eg vaccine passports) are made available on various online platforms.
Does Saint Lucia have a Cyber Security Incident Response Team (TTCSIRT) similar to Trinidad. “Our mission is to respond to cyber incidents, through effective response techniques, education, training, awareness, research, collaboration and efficient management strategies, in order to restore the operations of the information systems of our constituents.”
Saint Lucia is ranked as #146 in the world on the National Cyber Security Index with mediocre scores in most categories and a lower ranking than several of our peer group such as Grenada, Antigua and Saint Kitts and Nevis. Too often organizations repeat the mistakes of the past and do not learn lessons from significant cyber incidents. When something goes wrong, the government and private sector need to ask the hard questions and make the necessary improvements.
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