PROTECT THE GRID

Panama 2019 | TELECOMS & IT | FOCUS: CYBERSECURITY

As more multinational companies open offices in Panama, the country's leaders are working to safeguard IT facilities and networks against cybersecurity threats.

International spats over the safe implementation of 5G networks, which will facilitate the future of our online activities, have brought cybersecurity to the forefront of political and public debate. As IT experts have warned for decades, new policies and safeguards are needed as people around the world become more exposed by our ever-growing reliance on online services and information networks.

Since 2013, the Panamanian government has been hard at work to implement a national cybersecurity strategy that will protect the digital information of both private citizens and businesses operating on its national internet networks. The effort comes as a growing number of multinational companies open offices in Panama City, a long-time financial and investment hub in Central America, and state leaders are looking to facilitate further growth while preventing threats posed by extortionate hackers and information leaks.

According to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), cybercrime operations in the Latin American and Caribbean countries cost governments and private businesses an average of USD90 billion per year. In a 2016 report published with the Organization of American States titled, 'Cybersecurity: Are We Ready in Latin American and the Caribbean?' IDB found cybersecurity provisions in the region to be patchy, with even developed nations failing to take appropriate measures in a variety of areas, including government policy, legislation, public awareness, and cooperation between inter-regional private and public institutions.

In response, Panamanian state and business leaders have set a variety of initiatives in motion to develop and upgrade national IT facilities to advert pressing threats posed by faulty network infrastructure and antiquated cybersecurity mitigation strategies. In recent years, cybersecurity experts in Panama have been coordinating with IT companies from around the world in an event called Cybertech Latin America, which is hosted annually in Panama City, Tokyo, Singapore, Rome, and Tel Aviv.
Cybertech Latin America is the tech sector's most notable B2B networking platform, in which analysts and industry experts share the latest technological innovations, threats, and solutions for combating threats within the global cyber arena. Government officials meet with tech executives to discuss the latest cybersecurity measures to safeguard Panama's growing financial sector and to ensure secure systems for the nation's nascent start-up culture.

In effort to promote international banking and business activities within Panama's booming economy, state leaders have also developed a cybersecurity strategy to promote the development of nationwide telecommunications and connectivity, while protecting the privacy and fundamental rights of citizens using online platforms. A number of laws have been passed by the government to penalize criminal activity in cyberspace and encourage the development of a strong national business network for cybersecurity, which officials hope will one day be used as a reference by other nations in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Private companies have also taken measures to upgrade institutional security with innovative technologies that offer a broad range of protections against cyber crime. In 2018, Banking Systems of Panama signed a 10-year partnership with the cybersecurity company Sequrest to minimize the risk of hacking and unauthorized access to private accounts. Sequrest is working to deliver biometric and facial recognition technology that will reduce other cyber risks in daily banking transactions.
“Sequrest will work with our banking customers to address the escalating risks faced in the digital financial world," said Banking Systems CEO Remy Swaab. “As a global company, we wanted a partner that understood global risks and could deliver a full spectrum of cyber security solutions that offer complete protection to our customers, irrespective of where they are located."
Such initiatives come as growing public awareness has put pressure on private companies to limit security gaps on internet-based platforms that store valuable customer information and data. In 2019, a security researcher discovered an unprotected Elasticsearch server was publicly exposing personally identifiable information and medical data belonging to 90% of Panama's citizens, igniting a public outcry.

“The flood of personal information hitting the Internet is reaching new heights," said Ryan Wilk, vice president at NuData Security. “Cybercriminals are using every piece of personal information to create synthetic identities, take over online accounts, open new lines of credit, or steal assets from the global market. Many companies are fighting back the devastating effects of stolen credentials and passwords by employing a multi-layered authentication platform that can identify customers by their behavior instead of compromised credentials."