TRINIDAD and Tobago has become a dangerous place where the murder toll has crossed 500 for the year and personal data is being stolen and being held for ransom while the government does nothing to protect citizens.
Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal, commenting on national security, contended that in the face of this most serious development in the history of the Caribbean, as it relates to stolen data and cyber attacks on critical institutions, the Prime Minister has left the country on another "jaunt" without addressing the issue.
He found it ironic that before leaving for the Caricom Saudi Arabia Summit, Dr Rowley advanced the need for TT to become a cashless society.
He said this has to be a sick joke, because the government has proved it cannot protect data, and electronic transactions are the means by which hackers can get credit-card, banking and other personal information.
Over the past few weeks Courts, PriceSmart, the office of the Attorney General and the South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) have been victims of cyber attacks.
The hacking of over 1.2 million customers of TSTT, including the Prime Minister and other Cabinet ministers, members of the judiciary and the police service, which have been dumped on the dark web, has garnered national interest and resulted in the axing of TSTT’s CEO Lisa Agard.
Pointing to the killing of a man in front of the Belmont Police Station moments after he walked out, Moonilal charged, “The Government cannot protect lives, they cannot protect data.”
At a United National Congress (UNC) media briefing in Chaguanas on Wednesday, Moonilal said the time has come for the introduction of a national cyber security centre to deal with crime, criminality, and cybercrimes.
He said this is not the last time companies will be hacked, but one has to be prepared to fight against such attacks rather than wait until data is stolen before reacting.
He said the centre, modelled after that of the United Kingdom, should be separate from the Strategic Services Agency, which has been budgeted for to ward off cyber attacks, but preferred to maco the Opposition, and the police, who could not even protect somebody in front of a police station.
“We need to establish a cyber security centre whose job would be to take resources from various agencies of the state and independent experts outside of the public service, including industry experts, academic experts dealing with technology.”
He said the centre would not be just for monitoring data, but to co-ordinate and respond quickly in a crisis to reduce damage and risk.
This centre, he said, could be a point of contact for all organisations that face cyber attacks.
“Cyber security is relatively new, unlike other types of criminal international transnational criminal enterprise, whether it is illegal importation of firearms, kidnapping, gang-related, mafia-type operations.
“But it is extremely serious, because it is built on the principle of stealing data, stealing information of an individual that can easily be used to construct a criminal activity.
“Hacking is a global phenomenon. People can sit in any corner of the earth and hack into a computer system and network in any country.”
He said institutional innovations were needed to deal with these new threats in the security environment to prevent it, or, in the event something does happen, manage, reduce risk, reduce exposure and communicate with the affected public.
Moonilal cautioned that the technology has to be cutting-edge, “because today, in November, you may think you are clean, that you have firewalls and all types of sophisticated barriers to hackers –but all of those things can collapse by January, February.
“This is an unravelling type of problem, a matter of technology changing so often that you need to be on the cutting edge.”