WASHINGTON, USA -- The Organization of American States (OAS) demonstrated on Friday before numerous representatives of member states at its headquarters in Washington, DC, the operation of a new mobile simulation lab, designed to enable countries to respond to a cyber security crisis.
The secretary for multidimensional security of the OAS, Ambassador Adam Blackwell, described the program as "an example of the best of the OAS, a political body working with the Secretariat staff designing a solution to meet some of the key threats we face in this hemisphere.”
Blackwell said that "transnational criminal organizations" are working on new ways to use cyberspace, noting that, because of that, the issue "is incredibly important to us."
Rodrigo Vielmann, the permanent representative of Guatemala to the OAS and current president of the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE), characterized the event as "a faithful expression of the commitment of all of us to the importance of cyber security in the hemisphere."
"These exercises are aimed at strengthening the capacity of member states to prevent, detect, deter, and mitigate the effects of a cyber incident," he said, "and the prosecution and enforcement of those responsible for them."
Vielmann invited member states to join forces to improve cyber security, and to bring the experience of the demonstration back to their capitals so that their experts can benefit from the capabilities of CICTE.
The permanent representative of the United States to the OAS, Carmen Lomellin, stressed that "cyber security is a key area of interest for all of our governments," as "attacks on information and communications infrastructure could potentially cause major damage to key sectors of the US and global economy, such as energy, banking and finance and public health and safety.”
The lab, developed by CICTE and the Department of Information and Technology Services (DOITS) of the OAS, with the support of experts from several Member Countries, simulates cyber crises to instruct information technology personnel of the hemisphere on how to respond to them.
"The idea is to immerse the actors in a crisis," said Juan Jose Goldschtein, the director of DOITS.
"They have to experience the crisis, because if they can experience the crisis when it is an exercise, we think that when the real threat occurs, they will be more prepared to resolve the problem," he added.
A cyber security crisis can take many forms, continued Goldschtein, one of which is a "denial of service" attack that occurs when the invader performs multiple simultaneous calls to the server, so that "the server cannot respond to all of them at the same time, resulting in a denial of service." In the end, he said, network services at the affected institution are blocked.
In addition to staff training, the exercises aim to strengthening national coordination and promote public-private partnerships regarding cyber security. The mobile lab has already been used in exercises in Colombia in September, will be used in Argentina in November and in 2012 in Mexico, Panama, Guatemala and other member states.