Belize Cybersecurity Sensitization and Training Concludes

by Alberto Matus

Today concludes the second day of the Cybersecurity Sensitization and Training hosted by the Ministry of Home Affairs and New Growth Industries in partnership with CARICOM IMPACS. There were participants from all walks of life ranging from managers, policymakers, technical and non-technical individuals in the audience. While most of these platforms are sometimes too filled with informational content about past achievements and future goals, the end of day two did conclude with a satisfactory delivery.

The following can be stated about the two-day event. The CEO of Ministry of Home Affairs and New Growth Industries Kevin Arthurs gave an important keynote address reminding the audience that Cyber threats are real and are present in Belize. Most of us are oblivious to these types of threats, only to be reminded when something happens to us ranging from a mere virus infection to a huge ransomware attack. He used one of the most recent attacks in Belize whereby Belize Electricity Limited was hit by a ransomware attack as a primary example. The Ragnar Locker ransomware group accessed different types of data (about 355GB) and leaked it online. Nevertheless, platforms such as this two-day event are critical in bringing awareness to the general community that helps inform and change the unconscious state that we are in.

The Belize Police Department was also given the opportunity to share its brief background on how the Police Information Technology unit has since transformed into the Police Information Technology and “Cyber” unit, and with that name change came the responsibility of Cybersecurity, Cybercrime, Cyber Investigations, and Digital Forensics. Their cybercrime investigations initially commenced in 2020 while the Digital Forensics Lab was inaugurated in 2022. This has enabled the PITCU to carry out investigations that have led to arrests. Crimes in Belize pertaining to cybercrimes have ranged from obtaining online transactions by deception, child luring, computer fraud, child pornography, and more. In essence, there’s been a sharp and steady increase in reports of cyberbullying, online harassment, and phishing scams that lead to a greater need to investigate cybercrimes. The general public should also be aware that there is the Cybercrime Act, 2020 that lists an arrangement of sections that are liable and prosecutable relating to cybercrimes.

Nevertheless, as much as I try to stay up to date with the realm of security pertaining to Belize, I don’t know it all. CARICOM IMPACS the major partner of this event was completely new to me. Essentially, The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) was established by the Twenty Seventh Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government in July 2006, in Bird Rock, St Kitts and Nevis. Its primary focus is to establish and manage CARICOM’s action agenda on crime and security of which Belize is part. It is the sole legal entity with direct responsibility for research, monitoring and evaluation, analysis, and preparation when it comes to regional crime and security.

CARICOM IMPACS entails three major agencies:

  1. Regional Intelligence Fusion Center (RIFC)
  2. Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS)
  3. The Joint Regional Communications Center (JRCC)

In essence, some of the major mandates and responsibilities can be described as:

  1. Technical Assistance
  2. Capacity Building
  3. Sensitization
  4. Improve Cooperation
  5. Cybercrime Training (RIFC Analysts)

Capacity Building and sensitization were at the core of these two days’ events. Bringing not only informational awareness but also giving the audience the opportunity to engage with real-life scenarios. As part of the agenda on day two, participants were divided into mixed groups and went through a cybercrime phishing scenario that took nine different turnarounds. The scenario took a transformation from an end user transferring money due to a phishing email, discovering a mere middleman as a victim, to the actual criminal changing the monies to bitcoins through wire transfers between multiple countries. It may sound raw, and confusing. But that is the point of it, it gave the participants to be fully engaged, think outside the box, and bring ideas, knowledge, and solutions to every turning point.

I applaud the CARICOM IMPACS in undertaking and engaging participants with hands-on engagement. It truly brought awareness and sensitization which was an end goal of the forum. As an information security professional, one can applaud these efforts when it comes to solving cybercrimes. It should not be treated simply as a cybersecurity undertaking, but one that requires a joint collaboration between professionals in other fields and multiple agencies. Especially cybercrimes that are carried out in one’s country, but involve foreign criminals.

Final thoughts:

  • The forum accomplished its training and sensitization objective.
  • More people need to be informed about these platforms to become participants.
  • Solving cybercrimes involves not only cybersecurity professionals, another key aspect involves those in the finance sector.
  • Finance finance finance – FIU can play a huge role in solving cybercrimes in Belize that involve monetary assets.

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