I was not surprised to learn of the hacking of the customs and immigration new entry system/C5 form system (www.enterjamaica.com).
Hackers have been demanding a fee through third-party websites to complete the entry form for visitors and residents alike. As of September 1, all travellers to Jamaica are required to complete these forms online. While the idea is good in concept, I think it should be optional and some adjustments made.
Firstly, these forms were too long and detailed, it is like completing a survey. Cuba receives more visitors than Jamaica per year, and they use a very simple card with basic information. Many countries don't require an immigration form, they control borders using information scanned from passport and visas if required, and there may be an optional customs declaration form. Japan receives 40 million visitors per year, 10 times more than Jamaica, they uses an online customs form through a secure Government of Japan portal and the online form is also optional.
Hackers have outsmarted local experts. Even if we assume that the site had security protocols and firewalls in place, it was obviously not secure enough. The minister of national security and head of passport immigration and citizenship agency have urged Jamaicans and visitors to ignore the requests for payment. But this is not good enough - many have already been scammed and have paid the illegal fees.
And how safe is personal information entered and saved online? I am sure many will now understand the concerns raised about the National Identification System (NIDS), which is being rolled out expeditiously.
I believe the Jamaican entry form should be optional and the portal should be through a Jamaican Government domain which must be secure. This is how Japan does it. There should be less detail on these forms; in fact, the focus should be on customs since the immigration information is captured from a passport scan.
If we must survey tourists for tourism statistics, do so at hotels or points of departure. We must also consider elderly travellers who might not be tech savvy.