Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank Timothy Antoine said more regional and international partnerships between governments and private sector institutions were critical in developing cyber resilience and risk management against online attacks.
Antoine made the remarks during a virtual forum hosted by the Caricom Implementing Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) last week, in which he highlighted the importance of building local and regional capacities in defending against cyber crime.
He said just like the new coronavirus, cyber attacks have the potential to spread rapidly because of how dependent the world had become on information and communication technologies and were capable of damaging global economies if the necessary measures were not taken.
"Since we’re talking about hand hygiene, we must also think about cyber hygiene in the covid19 pandemic. The high rate of contagion of cyber viruses means a cyber virus can engulf the world and can spread faster than a biological virus.
"The financial carnage caused by a cyber attack could dwarf the impact of the current pandemic and the recovery from such a cyber attack would be a very difficult process."
Antoine also said that just as world governments have taken a unified approach in responding to the pandemic, they should be just as focused and committed to building their defences against possible cyber attacks.
Referring to the 2016 cyber bank heist where US $81 million were siphoned from a bank account in Bangladesh to various other accounts in south east Asia, Antoine said online criminals were becoming increasingly resourceful in how they swindle money from governments and institutions.
He also referred to a similar incident in 2014 where several Caribbean banks detected similar attempts to hack their systems, highlighting the need for more collaboration between regional bodies on matters of online security.
"The reality is not a matter of if we will get an attack but when. When that moment comes, we must do so together."
Cyber security expert for Caricom IMPACS Dale Joseph during his presentation also called on governments and financial institutions to do their parts in building cyber security.
He said while these organisations were responsible for drafting policy, the public should also be wary and take measures against becoming victims to online criminals by simple practices like changing their passwords to online accounts on a frequent basis and regularly updating the software on their laptops.
"Setting up strong passwords is an important aspect of preventing cyber attacks. A lot of people don’t change their passwords, it's human nature that we use the same passwords for multiple accounts.
"Disabling of USB ports as it relates to the spreading of malicious programmes and applications, authentication protocols and constant upgrades of these programmes are also very important. Some users don't want to go through the update of programmes but its important your machine is working and your data is protected."