In early November, government representatives, cybersecurity experts and military personnel from the armed forces of the countries that make up the Inter-American Defense Board (IADB) took part in the Hemispheric Cyber Defense Conference 2023. The event was held in Washington, D.C. Under the theme Strengthening Cyber Shields: Toward Hemispheric Cooperation in Digital Defense, the conference stressed the importance of collaboration and experience exchange among international authorities to improve digital security.
The discussions covered aspects ranging from cyberattack prevention and successful defense strategies in IADB member countries, as well as the global damage and threats involved in such situations. Among the proposals formulated, the highlight was the release of the Cyber Defense Guide, a document produced collaboratively by the countries that took part in the conference.
Within the framework of the IADB’s Cyber Defense Program, participants also made progress on the proposal to establish a Hemispheric Framework for Cyber Cooperation. According to the director general of the IADB, Brazilian Air Force (FAB) Major General Flávio Luiz de Oliveira Pinto, the goal is to promote mutual trust in the sector between state and private actors in member states, to help strengthen cyber maturity.
“The framework contributes to increasing individual and collective capability to resist and recover from possible cyberattacks, providing a safer hemisphere and, consequently, with greater capability to provide the development desired by all. It is important to note that the IADB is part of the structure of the Organization of American States. These are complementary efforts, developed around the common purpose of contributing to democracy, human rights, security, and development,” the IADB director general said.
One of Brazil’s representatives at the conference was Brazilian Army (EB) Brigadier General Luís Carlos Soares de Sousa, who works in the Cyber Defense Command. The officer stressed that the cyber sector is challenging, and that constant cooperation efforts between countries are needed in order to provide an increasingly secure cyber space. “In the case of Brazil, we have about 214 million people and 242 million devices connected to the internet. With the diversity of services made available digitally, Brazil has become the second largest target of cyberattacks in the world, and the increase in disruptive technologies will increasingly expand the role of sectors linked to cybersecurity.”
For Brig. Gen. Luís Carlos, the conference contributes to strengthening the cybersecurity of participating countries insofar as it allows for greater visibility of the issue at a global and regional level, and also enables information exchange, sharing of best practices and managerial and technical experiences at different levels. According to him, the main motivations of cybercriminals can be financial, with damage to institutions, companies and people; operational, which can lead to interruptions in the supply of services and/or loss of information and reputation; with the disclosure of confidential information, such as personal data or commercial information, which can damage the image of the victims.
“In the cyber sector, collaboration is key. It is worth noting that these issues faced in the cyber environment encourage public and private institutions to constantly search for more efficient, robust, and resilient systems, as well as allowing for the strengthening, integration, and sharing of best practices among the various institutions. Establishing ties with partner nations gives us access to other ways of thinking about security, as well as learning about cases, initiatives, and strategies adopted by these nations,” Brig.Gen. Luís Carlos added.
Reinforcing the collaborative nature of the event, the IADB’s director-general, Maj. Gen. Flávio, also pointed out that the conference motivates the actors involved to follow paths that maintain the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of the systems in their respective countries. “We know that the greatest motivation for cyberattacks is the loss of personal information and the hijacking of systems for ransom, known as ransomware. This threat can also extract data from governments, organizations, and industries, seeking to gain some economic or political advantage. For this reason, the IADB works to provide its member states with this situational awareness.”
Another point highlighted in Maj. Gen. Luís Carlos’ presentation at the 2023 Hemispheric Cyber Defense Conference was the Cyber Guardian Exercise, held in Brazil, which consisted of simulated attacks against important sectors of the national economy, such as water, energy, transport, communications, finance, nuclear, defense, digital government, biosecurity, and bioprotection. This year’s edition of the military exercise brought together 520 participants from 150 institutions, including members of the Ibero-American Cyber Defense Forum, which brings together 13 countries. During the course of the activities, participants were given simulations and challenges, made up of public and private agencies and companies, partner bodies, and academic institutions.
The EB officer recognizes that the theft of sensitive information is a constant threat in the public and private sectors, which demonstrates the relevance of the participation of various areas of society in the training. “Currently, there are groups of cybercriminals with great offensive capability and sophisticated techniques, capable of carrying out attacks whose objective may be espionage or the theft of sensitive information. In this context, the importance of the Cyber Guardian Exercise, carried out and organized annually by the Cyber Defense Command, is growing. It aims to strengthen and integrate public and private institutions by expanding cyber defense capacity, strengthening situational awareness at the managerial level, and expanding techniques and procedures,” Brig. Gen. Luís Carlos said.