Cybersecurity must be given the upmost priority by the government

Dear Editor,

The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) has given the government extensive recommendations to strengthen the information and communications technology (ICT) of The Bahamas. We recognize that the future success of our nation hinges on innovation, creativity, commitment, determination and diversification undergirded by a strong ICT platform.

Reports that the Registrar General’s Department has once again been the target of hacking attempts is a national embarrassment. This latest incident follows the 2016 breach by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and hacking by the Distributed Denial of Secrets group which the attorney general asserts took place between October 2019 and February 2020.

As these incidents span over successive administrations led by the FNM and PLP, the blame game is uncalled for. Our efforts must be focused on finding lasting solutions which strengthen our institutions, restoring confidence in our government agencies and establishing a robust ICT governance within our nation.

The government cannot be serious about the creation of a tech hub, accelerating the digitization of government services, improving the ease of doing business or maintaining our position as a top international financial center if cybersecurity is not treated with the utmost priority.

We recommend that the government immediately creates a special ICT security unit within the department responsible for ICT and digitization. The ISU should be equipped with the necessary tools, resources and professionals with specific focus on cybersecurity. Individuals with the requisite technical knowledge, expertise and qualifications should be engaged for this unit.

There must be a commitment to frequent penetration and vulnerability tests of all government ICT systems and infrastructure. We must evaluate access controls and network security settings, ascertain gaps that expose data, simulate potential hacker activities and build our resilience. All identified deficiencies, weaknesses or vulnerabilities must be addressed immediately. Ongoing monitoring and a real-time alert system are essential to protect the integrity of key agencies within our economy.

It should now be clear to the government that disaster risk management goes beyond hurricane preparedness to pandemics and cybercrime. We must not erode the confidence in our systems and agencies by poor planning and continuous breaches of our ICT infrastructure. The government must get its act together and stop pointing fingers. The Bahamian people are tired of the grandstanding and demand action now.

– Arinthia S. Komolafe, leader of the Democratic National Alliance

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