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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Cybercrime: Threats to information society


Features of the week:

In order to bring Information Society issues to the front burner, International Telecommunication Union (ITU) declared May 17 the World Information Society Day (WSID) but increasing cybercrimes stand between building trust on the evolving society and digital divide, reports REMMY NWEKE.

AS the world marks the commemoration of this year’s World Telecommunication Day (WTD) today, which coincides with the first ever World Information Society Day (WISD), one thing at the back of every stakeholder’s mind is the likely threat of cybercrime to the new world order of information society.

Noteworthy is that while WTD is celebrating 141 years by the global telecommunications and agency of the United Nations (UN), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), WISD on other hand is making a debut following the outcome of the second phased World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) which ended in Tunisia last November, with an agenda to make the world a better place, hence May 17 was also agreed for the commemoration of WISD beginning this year.

Therefore the decision to invariably replace WTD with WISD is a welcome development given the impact telecommunication has played in making the world a better place with delivering of information by the seconds.

Tunis Agenda

Apparently in line with the Tunis outcome, ITU tagged this year’s WTD and WISD theme as “Promoting Global Cybersecurity”. This it said, was based on today’s interconnectedness and increasingly networked world, which has paved the way for societies to become vulnerable to a wide variety of threats.

These include deliberate attacks on critical information infrastructure with debilitating effects on the economies and on the societies at large. This encouraged ITU to institute a survey on online trust recently, noting that in order to safeguard the systems and infrastructure as well as instill confidence in online trade, commerce, banking, telemedicine, e-government and a host of other applications, it has become imperative.

According to ITU, there is need to strengthen collective global cybersecurity, because this depends on the security practices of each and every networked country, business, and citizen, hence this is essential to develop a global culture of cybersecurity.

Therefore it was apt for ITU Council to decide to highlight the serious challenges facing humanity so as to build confidence, ensure the safety and security of networked information and communication systems.

UN’s position

Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), Mr. Kofi Annan said the WTD’s annual observance marking the founding of the ITU on May 17, 1865, was to draw attention to the work of ITU and the broader challenges of global communication.

“From the days of the telegraph through space-age communication, and now in cyberspace, ITU has helped to connect the world,” he asserted.

He therefore, charged all UN member states and stakeholders to join hands to increase global awareness of cybersecurity, and to develop an international network of initiatives, saying that ICT-based counter-measures would enhance security and build the needed trust in the use of information and communication technologies.

WSIS a historic conclusion

For the Secretary General of ITU, Mr. Yoshio Utsumi, the 141st anniversary, places the UN agency on the threshold of a new era, noting, for instance, that in the past seven years, the body had guided the landmark known as WSIS to its historic conclusion.

He recollected how world leaders gathered in Geneva in December, 2003 and in last November in Tunis with a common goal of politically backing the roadmap aimed at developing and utilizing ICTs in the service of humanity.

During this period, he pointed out that ITU’s standing as the lead agency in telecommunications and ICT was clearly recognized, which encouraged the body to expand its base; pioneering involvement of all stakeholders in the process. “Governments, technological experts, social scientists, business and civil society leaders, international organizations and grassroots workers as well as the media, have all been deeply engaged in laying the foundations of a more just, equitable and people-centred Information Society,” he declared.

And to guard against the sophisticated skills of cyber criminals, Mr. Utsumi said all stakeholders needed to develop a global culture of cyber security, requiring not only good policing and legislation but also heightened threat awareness and development of tough ICT-based counter-measures.

Nigerian experience

Obviously worried by the same issue of cyber security, the Nigerian Cyber-crime Working Group (NCWG) recently held a one-day seminar on “Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) in the Digital Economy”, where the Coordinator of NCWG, Mr. Basil Udotai spelt out the essence of the seminar to include to highlight some of the major shifts occurring in the field of ICT that are likely to affect traditional IPRs and take on some noticeable trends in the ICT sector in the country with attendant implications in addition to examining the proposed computer security bill which seeks to deal with some of the cyber security issues.

However, the nation is yet to ratify the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) Internet treaties.

Equally Nigeria has not done badly in the 141 years of ITU and after WSIS-05 as it has grown over 23 million subscribers and even set up a National Internet Exchange Points committee. This paved the way for the Public Private Partnership (PPP) between the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the Internet Service Providers Association of Nigeria (ISPAN) in making access more affordable.

Honours

The first ITU World Information Society Award would today be presented to two distinguished and eminent personalities, namely President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal and Prof. Muhammad Yunus, Managing Director of Grameen Bank, Bangladesh.

While President Wade’s honour was earned following the worldwide acclaim for his vision and dedication in promoting the digital solidarity agenda that led to the creation of the Digital Solidarity Fund (DSF). Prof. Yunus pioneered microcredit for the rural poor and has successfully addressed the issues of poverty eradication and development, mostly via providing wireless payphone service in the rural areas of Bangladesh.

As we celebrate …

Whilst we celebrate WISD, the nation’s cybercrime bill is already in the national assembly and is receiving advanced attention in order to help in repositioning of the country in the eyes of other nations. It should be pointed out that every cybercrime law must address key issues namely; how did the perpetrators began and what impact such has had in a given system or society, according to Udotai, but how long it would take for the bill to be passed which has stayed over four years should be a source of worry for Nigerian stakeholders.

And as rightly stated by the duo of Utsumi and Annan, cyber-security stands as stumbling block between the society and the bid to not only abridge the digital divide but also to enthrone electronic commerce globally, moreso as it concerns the Least Developing Countries (LDCs) of the world. Positive attitude to winning this war is by having a sustainable friendly environment for investment devoid of political instability and rancour.


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