By Lakshman Indranath Keerthisinghe - Attorney-at-Law
Knowledge has outstripped character development, and the young today are given an education rather than an upbringing.
-Ilya Ehrenberg 1891-1967 What I have Learned
This column dedicated to the notion of making Sri Lanka the wonder of Asia turns its spotlight today on the prevention of cyber crime in Sri Lanka as Sri Lankan society would aspire to be free of such sophisticated criminal activities.
The Internet has eliminated distances and differences, while placing at the hands of criminals a very powerful means of organised acts of crime.
Cyber crime is rather a novel aspect of criminal activities in Sri Lankan society. With the advance of information technology and knowledge of computer science in Sri Lanka some individuals have turned to cyber crime as a means of acquiring wealth fast and undetected. The truth of Ilya’s statement quoted at the outset of the column becomes obvious when one observes that most of the persons accused of cyber crime in Sri Lanka and in other parts of the world are educated youth. An increase in cyber crime complaints have been reported during the last year according to reports received from the Sri Lanka, Computer Emergency Response Team (SLCERT). In the recent past an increase in the number of Cyber criminal activities in Sri Lanka had been observed. A representative of SLCERT said that most complaints are related to hacking of passwords, stealing of information, demanding ransoms in addition to facebook and credit cards related crimes.
Reshan Dewapura CEO of ICT Agency (ICTA) in Sri Lanka delivering the key note address at the Fourth Annual National Conference organized by SLCERT, a fully owned subsidiary of ICTA, AS A PART OF THE Cyber Security Week 2011 said that only a concerted effort can build an appropriate safeguard against cyber crime. Dewapura emphasised. that: “It is only through the joint actions of governments and citizens as a whole, as a cohesive force, that a reliable shield against cybercrime can be built”, Dewapura further stressed the need for concerted effort to stall cybercrime citing at the outset Research In Motion’s recent catastrophe as an indication of the threat that cyber-warriors could pose,. He further stated that :‘The Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka, as the apex body for ICT in the country, found it greatly necessary to establish a mechanism to tackle the potential threat from cybercrime in the face of e-development activity, which saw huge amounts of ICT Infrastructure and IT systems being implemented. Hence, the Sri Lanka Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT), was created as a fully owned subsidiary of ICTA in 2006, as the Centre for cyber security in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka CERT has been mandated to protect nation’s information infrastructure, to coordinate protective measures and respond to cyber security threats and vulnerabilities”.
Dewapura made the following five practical proposals to overcome cyber crime in Sri Lanka:-
1 We have to recognise that it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that national networks are secure and have not been penetrated. To achieve this, the nation’s cyber activities need to be coordinated on both the institutional, district and provincial levels. And this has to be led by the Apex Agency of Cyber Security in Sri Lanka, SLCERT.
2 Centralised bodies such as Sri Lanka CERT, Law Enforcement Agencies and the Legislature should focus on areas where it has particular competence, such as protecting critical infrastructure and coordinating legal structures, as well as regulating and working with business, consumer protection privacy, and anti-terrorism.
3. The national security policy would need to be extended to include a cyber security agenda that covers the length and breadth of the country, in order to take the message to the people that cyber security is compatible with individual rights, privacy and freedom of speech.
4. This national security and defense policy can be used for furthering Sri Lanka’s cyber security agenda; this policy must also ensure that military operations and civilian missions are protected against cyber attacks. Cyber defence should be made an active capability of the country as a whole; it is crucial that Sri Lanka takes advantage of the overlaps it shares with its powerful Asian neighbours to coordinate activities between our countries.
5. Establish Public Private Partnerships – It is essential for governments to cooperate with the private sector, as the majority of web infrastructure is in private hands. All developed nations have identified this and are working closely with the private sector, and the private sector in return should reciprocate equally.”
Dewapura added: that “The above recommended proposals, when fully implemented will go a long way in strengthening our defenses against cyber attacks, and staying ahead of the cyber criminals. The government is already making concrete plans to successfully implement these in the shortest possible time”.
It is paramount to note that there is no country that, in this age of cyber terrorism, can remain indifferent and unresponsive, or rely on nature or geography (like in the old days) to protect it against malicious acts, because in addition to bringing people closer, the Internet has eliminated distances and differences, while placing at the hands of criminals a very powerful means of organised acts of crime.
It is only through the joint actions of governments and citizens as a whole, as a cohesive force, that a reliable shield against cybercrime can be built Urging citizens and companies to join in the effort to combat cybercrime and showing how this could be done in a practical way the ICTA CEO stated: “Citizens and companies must be encouraged to report crimes more often, since crimes cannot be solved if they are not reported in the first place. In this respect, it is necessary to create awareness – for government departments, as well as the general public in order to understand the type of cyber crimes that needs reporting, critical infrastructures such as transportation, public utilities such as electricity and water supply and health care can all be targets of cyber criminals. Sri Lanka has become an ICT driven nation and cyberspace is a major medium for service delivery.
As usual let me conclude in lighter vein with a humourous episode. A group of students at medical school were struggling with a physics lecture and let the professor know of their disquiet. One student rudely interrupted the lecture to ask: “Why do we have to learn this stuff?”
“To save lives” replied the professor.
“How does physics save lives?” the student persisted sarcastically.
The professor shot back: “It keeps idiots like you from graduating medical school.”