I am following up my letter of last week, “Cyberattack victim recounts his ordeal,” to alert voters to possible external interference in our election, without compromising police investigations into the incidents. Foreign interests may have been influencing the Virgin Islands for years, and perhaps are to blame for the deplorable state into which the House of Assembly has fallen.
Several cyberattacks on democratic institutions have been reported internationally in recent years, including a mass data attack on German politicians and, just weeks ago, a “malicious intrusion” on the computer networks of Australia’s main political parties and parliament.
Australia is due a general election within months, and its prime minister blamed a “sophisticated state actor” and announced several measures to ensure the integrity of the country’s electoral system, including having politicians’ passwords reset. However, there was “no evidence” that information had been accessed or stolen, according to the PM. He did not name the suspected foreign state, but the government has faced several cyberattacks in recent years. A cybersecurity expert at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute put China at the top of the list, but “wouldn’t rule out” Russia.
Circumstantial evidence suggests that the most recent Trojan on my personal computer may have come from visitors to East End who remotely planted files in Cyrillic script on my hard drive; operated a nearby, previously undetected, Wi-Fi network with a Russian name; substituted characters with accents used in the Czech language for those I had keyed in; and may have been the “Russians” a relative from New York noticed on Beef Island beach in December 2017 and June 2018
After my previous commentary, my desktop’s locked screen vanished before I could change its password. However, a thorough scan of my back-up disks detected multiple copies of viruses planted on them and replicated in later backups.
The antivirus software on my phone quarantined new infections, so I used Malwarebytes to encrypt it, ensuring its security. A week after I disastrously opened an email from myself, I found another one in my desktop’s spam folder flaunting a password I had used some time ago. I promptly deleted it, but I cannot believe I was the only target in the VI.
Humour and paranoia
Humour is a great antidote for paranoia: Would anyone watching the care with which our workers count their greenbacks seriously consider them going to a cryptocurrency machine in Road Town, let alone one replacing the storm-stricken East End post office? Chad Lettsome’s initiative should find more fertile ground.
Who might benefit most from the poor governance we’ve experienced in the last few years under both main parties (from which the others have splintered)? The culprits in our case may well have been the clients who have garnered the VI its reputation as a “dirty tax haven.” We should take advantage of the United Kingdom giving us more time to adjust to public registers by cleaning our stables of such clients.
It is vital that you primarily elect the most integral candidates possible, with their families and parties secondary considerations. We must recall that the present Brexit chaos in the UK was the result of only 36 percent of the electorate voting Leave, not 52 percent of its population as one commentator wrote recently. Two significant omissions from the Elections (Amendment) Act 2019 were its continued disenfranchisement of absentee voters and the failure of the election code of conduct to regulate expenses or define any penalties for breaches.
Rather than looking forward to independence, our tiny, self-ruled territory of about 30,000 people should be pursuing interdependence with its neighbours within the Caribbean Community, while continuing to maintain the UK’s protection. The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States’ recognition that it needs to face up to Cable & Wireless through Caricom is an example of our individual weaknesses on the international stage. Encouragingly, buried in a Cabinet brief on Jan. 10 was the news that the VI has been accepted into associate membership of the Association of Caribbean States and has signed a relationship agreement with it.
Meanwhile, I fundamentally disagree with the commentator who advocated self-sufficiency for national security, health and economic development, denigrating countries which couldn’t feed themselves as slaves to foreign powers. One of the main imperatives for the establishment of the precursors to the EU after World War II was that where trade cannot pass armies will. Would we want to revert to the subsistence economy from which Virgin Islanders had to travel to St. Thomas and the Dominican Republic and further afield for work?
Our twin pillars are built on international travel and finance. The Caribbean is not facing an economic dilemma, but a challenge to trade as far as possible among itself, cooperate in good governance, and face outwards toward the world.