In what could perhaps be a model for cyber security implementation , the Organization of American States (OAS) launched a unique five-day “Technical Assistance Mission on Cyber Security” to Colombia at the request of President Juan Manuel Santos. The mission, which included over a dozen international experts, conducted an evaluation of the country’s cyber security preparedness to identify areas in need of improvement, and subsequently submit a series of evidence-based recommendations to be considered by Colombian authorities. This request is reflective of the President’s commitment to advancing the country’ s information technology and communications capabilities, and by extension, the framework necessary to protect these efforts.
The Technical Assistance Mission included an international commission of experts’ convened by the OAS Cyber Security Program. This included Canada, Spain, the United States, the UK, the Dominican Republic, Estonia, Israel, the Republic of South Korea, the Council of Europe (COE), the World Economic Forum (WEF), INTERPOL, the Organization of United Nations (ONU), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the University of Oxford, and the Organization of American States (OAS).
The breadth and scope of experiences and expertise among those present allowed for productive discussions in the areas of institutional capacities for cyber security; international frameworks; responses to cyber security threats; the investigation of, and the legislation for, cybercrime; cyber defense; and international cooperation.
Overview of Sessions
The Technical Assistance Mission spanned five (5) days and included:
- Presentations from representatives from the Ministries of Information and Communications Technology, Ministries of Defense, and other key officials responsible for responding to cyber incidences on the institutions, policies, procedures, legislation, and the history related to cyber security efforts in Colombia;
- Onsite visits by the International Commission of Experts to the institutions responsible for national cyber security;
- Working Group Sessions conducted with state officials, facilitating the exchange of information on cyber security among experts. Specifically, the experts shared their experiences and perspectives in relation to the Colombian context while considering how to address the unique institutional challenges.
Upon the completion of the five-day mission, the international experts prepared a series of recommendations in the form of a detailed report for the consideration of the Government of Colombia. The report included the development of clear objectives within the thematic areas previously noted, and was drafted in private sessions to guarantee an equal and impartial analysis of the needs and options presented. Moreover, a working session was facilitated on the last day a in which the Government Ministers engaged in direct discussion with the experts regarding the recommendations that had emerged from the previous sessions.
These conclusions and recommendations were delivered by the International Commission of Experts and OAS representatives to the Minister of Defense, the Minister of Information and Communications Technology, the Head of the Army, the Head of the Air Force, the Head of the Police, the Head of the Navy, the Head of the Infantry, and the General Secretary of the Ministry of Justice and Law, among other Vice-Ministers and high-level Colombian authorities.
- Despite the existence of a Cyber Security Strategy, the assessment was able to identify and articulate the issues that exist within the current cyber security framework while recommending viable solutions.
- The Government of Colombia assured the committee that the conclusions and recommendations brought forth would receive their highest considerations.
- The OAS and the hemispheric cyber security community will continue to support the efforts of the Colombian Government providing programmatic support on this matter, as needed.
The assessment is expected to significantly influence the decisions made by the Government of Colombia, not only due in part to the participation of international experts, but also as a result of the government’s level of involvement throughout the process. In this way, the mission is an illustrative example of the progress that can be accomplished on a national level when excellent leadership and members from the international community collaborate to address a global challenge. The mission therefore serves as an exemplary model for other countries to follow suit in their efforts to strengthen cyber security capacities in order to effectively prevent, mitigate, and respond to cyber incidents.