14 January 2016

With 2016 now up and running, developments in the industry continued at a pace this week.

In Europe, the telecoms market was in focus, with two Committees at the European Parliament calling for the market to be regulated by a single authority moving forwards. The Committee on Industry, Research and Energy and Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection made the recommendation in a motion tabled for a new European Parliament resolution on the subject of the EU's work towards a digital single market.

Once again this week, cyber-security issues took centre stage alongside cyber privacy updates. From a cyber-security perspective, the news of note was the announcement that EU ministers have called this week for greater intelligence sharing in order to prevent extremist groups slipping across borders in order to carry out attacks. Ministers urged for concrete commitments to be established at talks on Monday, with the Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders admitting much more must be done on the issue. "Intelligence services must get used to not only collecting information, but to sharing it," he told reporters on the sidelines of the talks, which were attended by more than 50 countries.

Cyber privacy developments were many and significant. The key European headlines this week regarding this issue included the ECHR announcement that companies can now monitor employees private online communications whilst they are using work networks. The issue has gathered pace following the case of a Romanian engineer who was fired in 2007 after his company discovered he was using Yahoo Messenger to chat not only with his professional contacts, but also with his fiancee and brother.

Furthermore, the ECtHR this week dealt a blow to not only Hungary’s surveillance practices, but in a move which could have wide ranging consequences for similar policy frameworks across the continent, took issue with the lack of parliamentary oversight and means for judicial redress within Hungary’s current surveillance programme. 

In the US, net neutrality issues featured heavily, with announcements this week that House Republicans will resume their nearly yearlong effort to nibble away at the edges of the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Internet rules. Also generating considerable coverage with regards to the subject, President Obama touted his administration’s strong net neutrality rules but also alluded to a need to blunt the spread of terrorism online during his final State of the Union address on Tuesday. In a portion of his speech meant to highlight the spirit of discovery in the United States, the president pointed to agency wins aimed at getting more people online and protecting the Internet through net neutrality rules. 

In other news, cyber-security concerns were expressed by tech executives in the US this week, with several key industry figures telling Congress that the U.S. Government needs to spend more on cybersecurity if it wants to avoid breaches like the Office of Personnel Management hack that released sensitive data on 21.5 million Americans. This was followed by news that both the Department of Education and the Security Operations Center (SOC) (responsible for the securing the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) network infrastructure) are currently not sufficiently robust to meet the escalating cyber threats the U.S faces. This is a problem which continues to rumble on in the U.S. and it is likely to gain further traction and scrutiny as 2016 unfurls.

Finally in the U.S., it was reported this week that the Obama administration is poised to unveil its long-term policy vision on encryption amid a global debate sparked by the recent terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino. The issue is currently extremely highly contested with privacy advocates urging the Government to take a strong stand in favor of encryption technologies, which protect online policy.  Contesting this, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have called for guaranteed access to all encrypted communications. It remains unclear at this stage where the administration will settle on this issue, but the reveal is expected soon in the form of an official policy statement, expected to outline the Administration’s views on what role the government should — or shouldn’t — play in regulating encryption.

Asian developments were relatively few and far between this week, though news of note included the announcement that Telecoms and IT ministers from Asean nations have agreed on further co-operation to develop the region’s digital economy. The ministers approved a five-year IT roadmap (Asean ICT Masterplan 2020 - AIM2020) to 2020 in November during the 15th Asean Telecommunications and Information Technology Ministers Meeting (Asean TELMIN 2015) in Vietnam. The guidelines are aimed at driving the digital economy in Asean countries in the next 5 years.

Updates also of note included the Indian Congress seeking a ‘clear and categorical’ statement from the Indian Government in support of net neutrality this week. Also from an Indian perspective, it was determined this week in the Global Service Location Index from management consultancy AT Kearney that India remains the prime global location from which to deliver offshore ICT services. 

On a somewhat lighter note, internet users in Qatar will be presumably rubbing their hands in glee this week following the Qatar Cabinet’s announcement that it has approved a draft privacy law aiming to protect residents against spam messages via email or on mobile phones. Further developments with this legislation are anticipated for the coming weeks and months, but internet users globally are likely to take a keen interest in this story as inboxes everywhere chug along under the continuing burden of spam. 

As for other global developments, this week witnessed the launch of a website SecureTheInternet.org by a coalition of hundreds of technologists, privacy advocates and industry groups calling on governments worldwide to reject any policy that could infringe on people’s ability to use robust encryption.

Finally, the results of ISACA’s poll of 2,920 information technology professionals across 121 countries in order to determine their top security concerns, views on government-industry threat information exchange and IT talent recruitment efforts at their organizations, resulted in IT professionals ranking social engineering, insider and advanced persistent threats as their organizations’ most pressing concerns for 2016. Sixty-three percent of the respondents polled said they oppose the idea of governments having backdoor access to private data systems and 83 percent said they are in favor of data breach notification policies for businesses, ISACA reported.