Features — 29 April 2017 — by Adele Ramos
80% of cybercrimes in Belize are perpetrated by foreigners

BELIZE CITY, Wed. Apr. 26, 2017–Cybercrimes have become pervasive, and they pose a threat to people and companies around the globe—even those who deliberately stay away from the social media platforms, where many cybercrimes are perpetrated. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), “…companies are targeted for trade secrets and other sensitive corporate data, and universities for their cutting-edge research and development. Citizens are targeted by fraudsters and identity thieves, and children are targeted by online predators.”

“About 80% of cybercrimes being committed in Belize is done by foreign entities, although Belize is getting on board,” Mario Alcoser, manager/commander of the Police Department’s Information Technology Unit, told Amandala, on the sidelines of the law enforcement forum at the National Cyber Security Symposium being held at the Best Western Belize Biltmore Plaza this week.

Whereas no one in Belize has been specifically charged for cybercrimes—as there are no laws to specifically prosecute that type of activity in Belize—the police were successful in seizing child pornography photos some years ago from an American who refused to grant authorities his password to his computer.

Belize has longstanding partnerships with Interpol and other foreign agencies like the Organization of American States (OAS) to help police cross-border crimes, which Alcoser said, include phishing scams and credit card frauds.

Cybercrimes are real, and don’t just happen via platforms like Facebook, where fraudsters often set up pages in the name of others to perpetrate unethical acts online, but also are aimed at corporations, as was the case with a recently reported phone scam which allegedly duped victims out of $15,000.

Alcoser said that the Police Department has made strides in developing capable police officers to deal with cybercrimes, but there are notable gaps in training, resources and legislation to build an effective cadre of cyber-cops.
Alcoser noted that, “We don’t have legislation when it comes to cybercrimes…”

Nicole Haylock-Rodriguez, Deputy Coordinator of the National Security Council Secretariat in the Ministry of Home Affairs, notes that the involvement of other law enforcement agencies, such as Immigration and Customs, is critical.

“One of the goals is to have a law enforcement network that focuses on cybercrimes for vulnerable youth like children who are victims of online abuse and predators…” she said.

The National Security Council Secretariat is a strategic partner in the forum, and it helped to bring together the relevant agencies, to start the dialogue and the process of pulling together the resources needed to effect action. Wednesday’s dialogue will feed into the preparation of Belize’s first National Cyber Security Network.

“Police officers need the training and they need the tools to fight cyber-crimes…” Haylock-Rodriguez said.

At today’s forum, the Assistant Commissioner of Police raised concerns over shortcomings in policing cybercrimes. Those matters are to be further ventilated at the judicial forum, being held as a part of the symposium, on Thursday.

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