16 March 2016

The following is summary of the most recent IEEE Global Internet Governance Monitor report. To access and download the full report containing additional details and other news items, click here.

This week saw further developments of interest from across the ICT world. Of particular note being the overwhelming focus on cyber-security related issues, a continuing theme as organisations and nation states increasingly seek to enhance their resilience against the ever burgeoning range of cyber threats they now face.

In Europe this week, news of note included the announcement that the Privacy Shield data transfer agreement with the US could go into effect this June, as revealed by the EUs Digital Commissioner G√ľnther Oettinger. At the end of February the European Commission published several letters from US officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, who promised to step up their response to EU citizens privacy complaints as part of the new deal. A committee made up of officials from member states is still negotiating over the details in closed-door meetings. The agreement will be finalised once the committee gives its stamp of approval, although details can still be changed until then.

From a cyber-security perspective, the two stories of particular interest emanating from Europe this week centred on a report published by the Estonian Information Board, and an EU agency publication on big data systems.

The report published by the Estonian Information Board suggested that Russia poses a major cyber security threat to the European Union and NATO, alleging that Russia employs attacks involving denial-of-service, malware and security vulnerabilities to wage an information war against the European Union and NATO

With regards to the aforementioned big data systems publication, the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) this week called for policy makers to help shape the security of big data systems deployed in "critical sectors" of the economy. ENISA stated that policy makers should provide guidance to organisations operating in critical sectors to help them use big data systems securely.

In the US, developments of interest included the announcement that the White House is planning to put its full backing behind a plan to offer Internet subsidies to low-income Americans, a plan revealed in last weeks monitor. The Federal Communications Commission later this month will vote to update the Lifeline program so it can begin offering $9.25 per month subsides to help the poor pay for home or mobile Internet service.

With regards to cyber-security issues in the US, this week witnessed a report published by the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology (ICIT) warning that ransomware will wreak havoc on Americas critical infrastructure community in 2016. The report compiled reported incidents of ransomware and predicted that previously exploited vulnerabilities will soon be utilized to extract ransom.

Also of interest, the development of a new app announced this week. The iWatch Army app has been developed to support the US Army in order to boost its anti-terrorism and anti-crime efforts. The crime reporting application for smart phone is currently being used at 17 US bases and is expected to be rolled out to another 100 military bases in the US this year alone.

Other developments in the US of note this week included the roll out of another set of commitments to the technology sector made by the Obama administration. The White House announced this week that it will expand the TechHire initiative, which is aimed at increasing the workforces command of the kind of skills crucial to tech jobs.

Demonstrating President Obamas keen interest in the ICT sector, his appearance this week at the South by Southwest festival, the first appearance at the tech Confab by a sitting president. During the festival, the President addressed the highly topical issue of encryption, and asserted that law enforcement must be legally able to collect information from smartphones and other electronic devices, making clear, despite disagreement within his administration, that he opposes the stance on encryption taken by technology companies like Apple. However, the President declined to comment specifically on the efforts by the F.B.I. to require Apples help in gaining data from an iPhone used by one of the terrorists in the December attack in San Bernardino, California.

From a Pan-Asian perspective, developments this week were relatively few and far between. However, there were certain stories of note, including Chinas revelation of its five-year cyber power strategy, which is aimed at using the Internet to bolster the slowing Chinese economy and transform the country into a world leading cyber power.

With regards to cyber-security, North Korea this week denied the accusation made by South Korea that the North Korean administration had sanctioned and conducted cyber-attacks against officials from the South Korean government. South Korea's spy agency told lawmakers this week that North Korea had recently stepped up cyber-attack efforts against the South and succeeded in hacking the mobile phones of 40 national security officials.

Also of interest, it was revealed this week that the Chinese government has contracted China Electronics Technology Group to develop technology, similar to that used in the sci-fi thriller "Minority Report," that can predict acts of terrorism before they occur based on large amounts of surveillance data. The technology will collect data on ordinary citizens including information on their jobs, hobbies, consumption habits, and other behaviours and will flag unusual behaviour that could signal a potential terrorist threat.

Concluding the news roundup, developments of note associated with Global Institutions this week included the announcement that the Plan to Transition Stewardship of Key Internet Functions has been submitted by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) Board Chair to the US Government. The plan developed by the international Internet community, if approved, will lead to global stewardship of some key technical Internet functions..

Finally, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has this week appointed Lynn St. Amour of the United States as the new Chair of the Multistakeholder Advisory Group of the Internet Governance Forum. The Multistakeholder Advisory Group advises the Secretary-General on the programme of Internet Governance Forum meetings. It comprises 55 members drawn from Governments, the private sector and civil society, including representatives of the academic and technical communities.