Remarks by Chargé d’Affaires Bryan Hunt: Review of Cybercrime Legislation

The Honorable Basil Williams, Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Distinguished Guests,
Members of the Press Corps,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Thank you for your kind invitation to be here today to discuss one of most complicated and dangerous issues of our time:  Cybercrime.  It is clearly one of the greatest threats facing the civilized world today and forums like this are critically important to staying ahead of this rapidly changing challenge.

We are all increasingly dependent on computer technology for the daily operation of our societies as we are more interconnected than any time in history.  With that dependency, however,  has come increasing concern about new and existing vulnerabilities that allow criminals lurking and phishing on the Internet to negatively affect entire populations through threats to cyber- enabled infrastructures.

We must all work together to create incentives to enjoy the benefits of cyberspace so it can continue to be an engine for economic and social growth around the world.  Prosperity, security, and our individual liberties depend on the commitment to securing cyberspace and maintaining an open, secure, and reliable Internet.

Critical infrastructure continues to be at risk from threats in cyberspace, and our economy is harmed by the theft of our intellectual property.  According to a recent survey, insufficient planning and lack of preparedness are among the most significant barriers to achieving a high level of cyber-resilience within an organization.  Brazen hacks on organizations such as Sony Corp., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and the United States Internal Revenue Service have shown, even large, well-funded organizations can easily fall victim to cybercriminals, whose attacks are growing more sophisticated as the security industry struggles to keep up.   Although the threats are serious and constantly evolving, I firmly believe that if we address these threats systematically and together, we can ensure that the Internet remains an engine for economic growth and a platform for the free exchange of ideas.  This piece of legislation is a step in the right direction to ensuring a bright future for all Guyanese.

This legislation addresses many of today’s greatest cybersecurity threats – identity theft, cyberbullying, and child pornography.   These scourges, left unchecked, undermine the social fabric of this great nation.  To illustrate the gravity of the problem and to offer an example, in 2015 the United States Federal Trade Commission received over 490,000 consumer complaints about identity theft (PDF 433 KB).  This represented a 47 percent increase over the prior year.  The Department of Justice estimates that 17.6 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2014.  This is a major disruption to so many lives and wreaks havoc on the ability to function properly in today’s computer-based economy.

With regard to child pornography,  in the U.S. it was almost completely eliminated in the mid 1980’s  by aggressive law enforcement action.  The Department of Justice reports that producing and reproducing child sexual abuse images was difficult and expensive and law enforcement was able to adequately address the issue.

Unfortunately, the child pornography market exploded in the 1990’s with the advent of the Internet and advanced digital technology.  The Internet provides ground for nefarious individuals to create, access, and share child sexual abuse images worldwide at the click of a button.  The Department reported that child pornography images became available through virtually every Internet technology including websites, email, instant messaging, chats, newsgroups, bulletin boards, peer-to-peer networks, and social networking sites.  Child pornography offenders could connect on Internet forums and networks to share their interests, desires, and experiences abusing children in addition to selling, sharing, and trading images.  That is the world we live in today.

The legislation under review here this morning more clearly defines what child pornography is and takes aim at those people engaged in this despicable, unlawful behavior.  Protecting children, and other vulnerable members of society, is one of the most  important duties that today’s leaders assume.

I could spend all morning discussing the dangers of cybercrime, but I will conclude by offering the United States’ unwavering commitment, through various capacity building and other initiatives, to stand with the Government of Guyana, members of civil society, the private sector, and all other stakeholders in making sure the Internet is a safe place for all of us.

As Secretary of State Kerry has said, “ the internet is not without risk – but at the end of the day, if we restricted all technology that could possibly be used for bad purposes, we’d have to revert to the Stone Age. Throughout the global community, we need to come together around principles that will establish a solid foundation for our freedoms – principles that will protect the rights of individuals, the privacy of our citizenry, and the security of our nations – all at the same time.”

Thank you.