CHAIRMAN of the Joint Select Committee reviewing the Cybercrimes Act Julian Robinson says the Government will have to move with urgency to put in place a central mechanism to fight criminal activities carried out in cyber space.
"We don't have any organised mechanism to respond to threats of this nature. It is pretty much done on an ad hoc basis by individual institutions. But the country is exposed if there was ever a serious cyber attack on any of our critical agencies or ministries," Robinson, who is also junior minister in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining (STEM), told the committee during its first meeting on Thursday.
The junior minister said for each of the last two years the CFCU (Communication, Forensic and Cyber Crimes Unit) of the Jamaica Constabulary Force dealt with more than 1,700 cases.
"You have to bear in mind that not all cases are reported to the police. So there are a lot of other cyber criminal activities that are taking place but 1,700 per year reported is certainly a large number," Robinson noted.
He said the situation was even more critical since another government agency had its website hacked as recent as last year.
"There is another statistic which is particularly concerning, last year over 229 sites were hacked into which included governmental agencies, tertiary institutions and private institutions," Robinson said.
In February of 2010, visitors to three Government websites were greeted by an obscene message after hackers breached the security measures. The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), the Ministry of National Security, and the Rural Agricultural Agency were the ones reportedly affected.
Thursday Robinson said the CFCU has "seen a significant increase in electronic fraud (the use of credit and debit cards for criminal activity)" as well.
"That is an area which over the last year or two has increased," he added.
In the meantime, the state minister -- responding to an observation from Opposition Senator Kamina Johnson- Smith -- said it would be necessary to align the current Act with the promised lottery scam legislation.
"We need to align them, at present they are not because a lot of the challenges we face in successfully prosecuting those involved in the Lotto Scam are related to the loopholes here in this Act," Robinson said.
Other challenges, he said, included "the inadequate legal framework leading to loopholes that can and have been exploited and insufficient personnel in the CFCU to handle incidents in a timely manner".
While the unit has a staff complement of 18 persons, the members do not work exclusively on cyber crime matters. The CFCU has acquired digital forensic equipment, but there is no equipment for Internet-related investigations.
The STEM is the lead Government body responsible for co-ordinating the prevention and combating of cyber crimes as well as providing policy support to all matters regarding cyber security.
At present, there is no documented strategy for cyber security. However, the Information and Communications Technology policy passed in 2011 speaks to the establishment of a Cyber Emergency Response Team to address matters regarding cyber threats and appropriate responses to it.
Yesterday Robinson said the Government will be getting technical assistance from an international expert to review the existing legislation to identify gaps, support in drafting new legislation, conduct global benchmarking among other things.