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By Elesha George

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Regional leaders have been asked to consider signing on to a decade-old treaty as a way to reduce security vulnerabilities during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Captain Errington Ricardo Shurland, executive director of the Regional Security System (RSS), explained that the Budapest Convention (Cybercrime Convention) is the first international treaty which addresses internet and computer crimes by harmonising national laws, improving investigative techniques and increasing cooperation amongst nations.

“The Budapest Convention offers a legal basis and a practical framework for police to police, and judicial cooperation on cybercrime and electronic evidence,” he noted.

Shurland believes that cyber security technology and service providers should shift priorities to support current needs and a transition to the “next normal”.

Border security, he said, is under constant threat because “bad actors” of transnational crime have been quick to adapt to the Covid-19 climate, which has forced businesses to offer remote operations, resulting in increased online presence.

“Countries in the region must be more agile in updating or developing national cyber security strategies as well as their legal and regulatory framework regarding cyberspace,” he explained.

Shurland quoted figures from a June 2020 report from the World Economic Forum and noted that the pandemic had increased internet use by at least 50 percent in some markets and that cyber attacks had increased worldwide.

He said there was data to suggest an increase of 350 percent in the phishing of websites.

“They are far better able to mobilise funds, they have boundless financial resources, they are not bound by the regulations and treaties and they ignore laws with impunity,” the captain remarked.

In addition, he called on regional countries to improve their technical assistance on health-related issues, including crisis management and contingency planning.

 The captain said evidence suggests that there is also need for improved border management systems at national levels, better cooperation among countries on early warning and risk management, as well as accelerated advances in modern technology so that security forces work with real-time information to better protect borders.

Before Covid, Shurland said the region was highly vulnerable to transnational crime, particularly illegal drug trafficking and illegal arms and rising levels of violence.

Now, he said, Covid has presented new areas for trans-nationality, posing “an immense threat to social and economic development and has the potential for undermining the fabric of our societies”.

“The pandemic has certainly brought in stark reality, the multidimensional nature of security challenges confronting our region, specifically economic security, health and human security, food security and also environmental security.

“Individually, they threaten the wellbeing of Caricom countries but together I would suggest they threaten our very existence,” the RSS commander remarked.

And that, he added, may mean food shortages that could lead to civil unrest, in the absence of more coordinated strategies and better communication to fight crime.

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