OAS Secretary General Calls for Cooperation in Fight against Cybercrime

WASHINGTON – The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, today spoke at the inauguration of a two-day Inter-American meeting on cybercrime in which authorities and experts throughout the continent are to evaluate the progress reached in the fight against cybercrime, define new initiatives of cooperation and formulate recommendations on future actions.

The recommendations of the meeting’s Working Group are to be considered at the Eight Meeting of Ministers of Justice, other Ministers and Attorneys General of the Americas (REMJA), which will be held from February 24 to 26 in Brasilia, Brazil.

In his speech, the Secretary General said that cybercrime represents “a great challenge for international cooperation” because of “legal, technological and training challenges.” He added that “the possibilities of detecting, preventing, confronting and sanctioning this type of crime depend on coordination between leaders of the public and private sectors and cooperation between countries.”

In this context, Insulza emphasized that “information criminals, who have developed sophisticated ways of embezzling the public treasury and stealing private information from institutions,” have targeted more than the public sector. “This criminal activity ranges from industrial espionage to vandalistic attacks targeting the Web sites of businesses, seeking to harm, erase, alter or suppress information or illegally use their systems.”

Insulza added that the citizenry in general “is also a target of these criminals who, using information networks, launch attacks against the populace that constitute violations of privacy—identity theft, fraud—and involve victims of human trafficking, sexual abuse and child pornography.”

The Secretary General made an urgent call to OAS Member States to adopt new laws to allow for the “effective prosecution of cybercrime. Various case studies have shown that lack of legislation in this field or current deficiencies lead to impunity.” Nevertheless, he said, countries like Argentina, Chile, Peru, Bahamas, the United States, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico and Panama “already have special units that investigate and try cybercrimes.”

The Secretary General recalled that the OAS contributed to the fight in this field through the Inter-American Strategy on Cybernetics Security, approved by the General Assembly of the OAS, and through the strengthening of cooperation with other international organizations and bodies, such as the Council of Europe, that are fighting on the same front.

According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, more than 270,000 complaints on cybercrimes were made in 2008, an increase of 33 percent with respect to the previous year, leading to some 265 million US dollars in total losses. With respect to Internet security threats, Symantec figures show that the use of malicious codes by cybercriminals to commit Internet fraud has consistently grown in recent years: from 113,025 cases in 2005 to 1.65 million in 2008.

The recommendations of the REMJA Working Group on Cybercrime during the last few years have led to regional training workshops for policy development and other tools for the investigation and prosecution of cybercrimes; an Internet portal to facilitate the exchange of information exclusively between national authorities; and cooperation initiatives with other international organizations such as the Council of Europe to strengthen collective action in this field.

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