‘We cannot take it lightly’
CENTRAL banks governors across the Caribbean have pledged to work together on issues of cybersecurity after seeing an increasing spate of attacks on financial entities in the region, especially in the aftermath of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“I understand that in the United States, that everyday, there are 15,000 attacks on the US Government. I don’t know what the number is in the Caribbean, but rest assure, there are attempts, or persons looking to damage us and destabilise our system. So that is a major, major risk, because if you think about what it means for financial stability, we cannot take it lightly,” Timothy Antoine, governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), pointed out at the 54th Annual Monetary Studies Conference governors’ panel discussion.
“If you ask any governor what keeps them up at nights, you might hear cybersecurity in the top three,” Antoine continued. He said central bank governors around the region are opening up more with each other about the problem and are sharing data on the attacks and ways to mitigate them.
“People were suffering in silence. An attack would come or an attempt of an attack and nobody would hear about it. To fight this thing we have to share information promptly, confidentially yes, but promptly to protect the system. That is not just our countries, but the region,” he added.
Jamaica has had to deal with a number of cyberattacks in recent times with financial entities such as Mayberry Investments, a securities dealer, and the Financial Services Commission (FSC), the country’s regulator of non-deposit-taking institutions, amongst the targets.
“We recently had a cyberattack on our Financial Services Commission, shut them down. We are just barely building them back now. So we are very sensitive to this issue of cyberattacks,” Richard Byles, governor of the Bank of Jamaica, who was chairing the governors’ panel discussion, said.
“We are 100 per cent committed to [sharing information] and want to participate in every single way, both in terms of what’s happening and what’s our experience, and also what you are doing to let you know and for you to tell us what you are doing to harden and protect against those attacks,” the BOJ governor continued.
Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados, Kevin Greenidge shared the experience his country had in recent times with cyberattacks.
“In Barbados we had an incident where a domestic credit union was crippled for quite a while because of a cyberattack,” Greenidge stated. He said steps have been taken to mitigate the challenges including mandatory staff training as the first line of defence against cyberattacks. His colleague at the ECCB encouraged each other to continue the fight amidst the challenges.
“Cybersecurity is a real thing and we have to invest heavily in it, and we are, but the more we invest and the more we spend, it seems there is more to be done.” He said part of combating the scourge involved the issuance of technology standards to licensed financial institutions in the eastern Caribbean “and they were keen on the standards”.
However, the BOJ governor indicated that cybersecurity is not the only issue worrying him about the financial sector in Jamaica.
“One of the things that concerns based on our experience is the systematically important financial institutions, the SIFIs. Those are really something to keep our eyes on. In Jamaica we have a couple of them, whether they are DTIs or non-DTIs. They are big and they are systemic and they really can expose us to tremendous danger and that is something out of our recent experience that we want to pay attention to,” he said.