Interview: Cooperation between public and private sector key for cyber security

  • Petr Boháček
  • 1.7.2016 16:53

Interview with Cristobal Santiago Fundora Sittón, the former General Consul of Panama in Spain and the current national security advisor for Miguel Fanovich, the Panamanian Deputy.

Is the cyber war a real thing or a myth? There have been discussions regarding the concept for the last 20 years. What is your opinion?

There is no precise definition of what a cyber war is. Every state and every organisation defines it differently. However, threats to nations and public and private sectors are as real as the people behind them. Terrorists, narco-guerrillas and organised crime groups may have different goals but the tools they use are the same. They still use guns and bombs but they also adapt to the new environment of cyberspace where they launch new kinds of attacks. Their cyber skills are improving and governments should respond by establishing specialised departments.

When it comes to cyber security, cooperation between state and private sector is a key aspect. What problems can arise from this cooperation? And do you consider the private sector a panacea to problems of cyber security?

Cyber defence plays an important role in national and international security. It concerns all participants at the global, national (militaries, governments) and interstate (private companies) level. To prevent threats and to reduce related risks there should be a protocol of cooperation and coordination that would include all aforementioned participant, a kind of a memorandum of understanding that would allow cooperation against such threats. Cyberspace is being used by nations and everyone within them (civilians, infrastructures, companies, industries). If we want to reduce the risks and eliminate weak spots, we should cooperate.

Cyber threats in Panama are associated with regional guerrilla groups. Cyberspace is only a tool used by these participants. Do you think that the activities of organised crime will move into cyberspace?

Cyberspace is a new environment comprised of two parts – physical and non-physical. A physical attack targets the physical sphere and results in physical damage but an attack against the other sphere is to create moral or conceptual damage.

The threat of guerrillas, terrorists and non-state participants using cyberspace applies to all states and not just Panama. Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui [two colonels in the People's Liberation Army, authors of Unrestricted Warfare – Ed.] said in 1999: "One hacker and one modem can cause an enemy damage and losses almost equal to those of a war." Cyberspace gives many attackers the opportunity to exploit the weaknesses of the long distance targets with a minimum time investment.

How should we set up the standards of cyber security for the private sector? Is the solution rules and regulations for private entities? Should they be penalised for not following them? Where do we set the limit? How should the cooperation be enforced?

Cooperation, coordination and information control between the private sector and the governments have proven to be the best way to ensure the protection of national interests. The state should create an environment in which the efforts of citizens, companies and public institutions can be united to increase cyber security. This would allow reliable use of information technologies on all state levels. Simultaneously, the state should pay attention to safeguarding fundamental rights and freedoms and creating an economic and legislative climate to support the prosperity of private entities and smooth operations of the state.

What are the main cyber security threats in Panama? Are there any threats to supply chain security? Is cyber security in Panama focused solely on the Panama Canal?

Panama is a geostrategic location of global significance. It is called the world's logistic hub and one of the most important ones on the American continent. There is the Panama Canal, Tocumen International Airport, many call centres, one of the best banking systems in the world, an international tax-free zone and an internet connection with the outside world guaranteed by five global fibre optic cables. So we are well aware that the Panama Canal is not our only concern regarding the cyber security. Worldwide connectivity also represents a widespread vulnerability. Protecting our infrastructures and communication lines in the physical and digital world has become a more demanding task than ever before. Panama is the world's logistic hub and any attack to its logistic or supply chain in a physical or non-physical dimension will be considered a threat.

What motivations are behind the attacks on supply chains or the Panama Canal? Just to slow down the ships?

Attackers may be motivated differently and based on these motivations they can be identified as:

Cyber criminals: crimes motivated by personal financial gain

Spies: attacks that try to get the information for governments or competing companies

Hacktivists: attacks as a form of protest against organisations or governments

Inside attacker: attack by the person inside the organisation

Imagine a ship carrying something special, e.g. a new vaccine for an epidemic in a remote area. Any delay, seizure or damage can cost millions of dollars or lives. Private companies invest a lot of money into various projects and even a small delay can cause a huge loss.

So it is usually an attack of competition?

It can be anyone because cyberspace gives everyone the security of anonymity. Therefore we need a very good cyber defence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About author: Petr Boháček

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