Cuba and US discuss cybersecurity and cybercrime

15 January 2018

Cuban and the US officials have held technical meetings in Washington on cooperation in relation to cybersecurity and combatting cybercrimes. The exchanges on January 12, which form a part of the continuing law enforcement dialogue agreed with the Obama administration in 2015, follow recent warnings by Cuba’s Computer Networks Security Office (OSRI) that the threat to Cuban networks is growing.

Little information was provided on the issues discussed but a short Cuban press notice said that the delegations of both countries shared the view on the importance of advancing cooperation in the area, and agreed to continue holding such technical meetings in future. Cuba also said that the meeting was characterised by ‘an ambiance of respect and professionalism’. The Cuban delegation was composed of representatives of the ministries of the Interior, Communications and Foreign Affairs while the US delegation was composed of officials of the departments of Homeland Security, Justice and the State Department.

Last June NBC News reported that as a part of the process of rapprochement Cuba and the US had been sharing information on a range of law enforcement and security matters, including narcotics trafficking and cybercrime.

At the time, NBC reported that the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) confirmed that it had been exchanging information with Cuban officials. NBC said that over a eighteen month period Cuba had handed over intelligence on at least 17 cybercrime cases where the internet addresses used in a suspected identity theft scheme had been traced to the US for both the suspected attackers and potential victims. It also quoted Cuban officials as saying they had notified a special cyber security
team at the Department of Homeland Security about hacking attacks aimed at Cuban networks, apparently originating from IP addresses in the United States.

In mid-December, in a lengthy article in Granma, Miguel Gutiérrez, the Director General of OSRI, warned Cuban internet users that his agency had identified significant cyber security problems facing the country.

He said that the management of Cuban email servers, use of unauthorised proxies to connect to the Internet, outdated antivirus protection used by state enterprises and agencies, as well as the lack of proper application of security controls and users’ inadequate knowledge when using different
technologies, were all beginning to create difficulties.

He said that among the threats detected were vulnerabilities in Cuban websites and configuration errors as well as cases of malicious codes introduced to hijack machines and devices to undertake attacks on third parties, to scan information or to read files.

The reports said that OSRI, which is attached to the Ministry of Communications (Mincom), has a cyber incidents response team to manage incidents to stop them escalating. He told Granma that while the organisation was trying to ensure greater cyber security awareness among users, the Ministry was working separately to create a regulatory framework around ICT security, to be able to address policy issues surrounding the computerisation of Cuban society.

He told Granma that it was not possible to foresee growth in Cuba’s computerization and access to the Internet, without taking into account the greater the possibilities of cyber-attacks. Among the steps he suggested would be introduced were full risk analyses in workplaces ‘subject to the specific character of each enterprise’, antivirus and anti-spam solutions, malicious url analysis, and the updating of security patches.

This is an extract from the Caribbean Council’s weekly editorially independent publication, Cuba Briefing, which provides in depth information on current economic, political and commercial developments in Cuba and news on events in Europe and the US that affect the region. Business people, academics, and those with a general interest in Cuba find it an invaluable tool for developing and maintaining knowledge and providing an insight into political, economic and commercial events in the region

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