U.S. Ambassador Thomas Daughton remarks for the Opening of U.S. Secret Service Financial Crimes Training Seminar
Good morning. I am honored to be here today to mark the opening of the U.S. Secret Service’s Financial Crimes Training Seminar. I want to start by recognizing and thanking Inspector General Sebastian Ndeitunga for the participation of his officers in this training endeavor. I also want to recognize and thank Bobby Outlaw, U.S. Secret Service Attaché at the American Embassy in Pretoria, for coordinating these training efforts. And lastly, I would like to acknowledge and recognize Governor of the Bank of Namibia Ipumbu Shiimi for hosting this event in this impressive facility and for recognizing the importance of this training.
Some of you might be asking, why is the United States Secret Service in Namibia? Isn’t there an upcoming election in the United States? Shouldn’t they be protecting the candidates for President? Or maybe they are here laying the groundwork for a final trip by President Barack Obama to Namibia before he leaves office? Well, actually, before the Secret Service became famous for protecting Presidents, they were originally formed to protect the currency of the United States of America. Founded on July 5, 1865, as part of the Department of Treasury, the US Secret Service is one of the oldest law enforcement agencies in the United States. Its original mandate was to combat the then widespread counterfeiting of US currency which it still does today. However, with the advent of increased technologies, the US Secret Service carries out this mission in an increasingly dynamic manner. From constantly changing security features in US currency to the use of digital currencies such as bitcoin, the Secret Service’s mission to protect the vitality of the financial system is as important as ever. In addition to a growing global economy, where every country is financially inter-connected, it is vitally important that the Secret Service, and other officials in the law enforcement and finance sector, prevent criminal or terrorist organizations from disrupting the integrity of these financial systems. And that is why you are all here today. To learn these new techniques and tools to help prevent these bad actors from creating chaos in your country and abroad.
According to the Bank of Namibia, there were 251 cases of bank fraud reported in 2015, up from 178 the year before. A 41% increase in one year and I suspect the number will be even higher this year as it is increasing not only in Namibia, but worldwide. And increasingly these bank frauds are perpetrated electronically either via Electronic Funds Transfer, hacking or malware. Check Point Software Technologies , the largest global pure-play network security cyber vendor, ranks Namibia as second in the world for the greatest threat of a cyber-attack and revealed that Namibia was the country most targeted by cyber-attacks in December 2015. Unfortunately, financial theft via cyber crimes is becoming the norm for most criminals. No longer using weapons and crowbars to terrorize homeowners, these new age criminals use smartphones and laptops to steal from the public. These criminals do not recognize international borders, treaties between nations or customs laws. With technology today, these criminals can steal assets from your bank account 1000 miles away. They can clone your ATM card and withdraw all of the money out of your account before you can realize it. They can skim your credit card and sell all of your financial info online. And they can phish for private information regarding your bank account and wire all of your money to a bank account in a foreign country. The actions of the criminals and terrorists do not stop at legally defined international borders like they do for law enforcement officers or banking officials. That is why we must work together to combat these criminal alliances and solidify the finance sector from their influence.
President Barack Obama remarked that “The Internet has brought incredible opportunity, incredible wealth. It gives us access to data and information that are enhancing our lives in all sorts of ways. It also means that more and more of our lives are being downloaded, being stored, and as a consequence are a lot more vulnerable. That’s true for the private sector. That’s true for individual Americans. That true for federal, state, and local governments. It’s true for our critical infrastructure”. And U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew stated that “The consequences of cyber incidents are serious. When credit card data is stolen, it disturbs lives and damages consumer confidence. When trade secrets are robbed, it undercuts America’s businesses and undermines U.S. competitiveness. And successful attacks on our financial system would compromise market confidence, jeopardize the integrity of data, and pose a threat to financial stability.
For the President and the Treasury Secretary to comment on the issue of cyber-crimes and the risk it poses to our financial sector demonstrates that the United States is serious in protecting financial assets, either within the United States or around the world. Without financial stability there is no political stability. And without political stability there is chaos. Right now, the people in this room, are trying to prevent chaos by detecting and deterring these threats to the global financial system.
I have been told by my staff that the number of people who wanted to attend this training seminar far outnumbered the amount of seats we could allocate for all of you. I think that is a sign that this type of training is desperately needed around the world in both the public and private sector. To that end, I hope to see our US Secret Service colleagues return in the future for additional training endeavors in this subject matter that will increase the awareness and capabilities of Namibians. I also hope you will take back what you studied this week to your colleagues and teach them the techniques and lessons learned from this seminar.
Thank you all for attending this training, and thank you for your continued efforts in attempting to bring increased confidence to the financial sector.