21 January 2016

This week saw developments continue a pace in the ICT world, with multiple stories of interest emerging from across the Globe.

In Europe, news of note included the announcement that EU regulators are due to meet next month on the Safe Harbour replacement, with data protection bodies scheduled to come together on the 2nd of February to discuss solutions for filling the current ‘data-transfer void’. Also on the topic of internet governance, this week witnessed the European Parliament passing a resolution urging the European Union body to immediately table the 16 Digital Single Market initiatives announced by the European Commission last May (2015). The Parliament has called for a more open approach to providing digital goods and services, and has requested for the EU to be more proactive in seizing on the opportunities around big data, cloud, the internet of things and 3D printing.

In net neutrality developments, the Council of Europe stated that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) ought to check with regulators before using tools to control internet traffic. The recommendation was made by the Committee of Ministers at the Council of Europe in new net neutrality guidelines that it has published and is aimed at ensuring the privacy rights of internet users are respected.

From a cyber-security perspective, the European Parliament’s internal market committee this week has come out in support of measures to ensure that businesses supplying ‘essential services’ improve their ability to resist cyber-attacks. The new regulations would be geared towards protecting essential networks and services such as online banking and key electricity/transport infrastructure grids.

In the US, it was revealed this week that a plan to end key oversight role played by the US Government is in place and on track for completion this year. The move is a symbolic gesture aimed at asserting the independence of the web, According to Fadi Chehade, chief executive of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the transition will not change how the internet functions but will serve to reassure users, businesses and other governments about its integrity.

Cyber-security developments in America included the revelation that cyber-attacks on the critical manufacturing sector in the country nearly doubled in the year ended Sept. 30, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The Department of Homeland Security's Industrial Control Systems Cybersecurity Emergency Response Team, or ICS-CERT, said in a report distributed this week that it investigated 97 incidents at critical manufacturers during its most-recent fiscal year.

Cyber-privacy and encryption debates continued to rumble on in the US this week. On this topic, the NSA this week defended the programme set up by the agency in order to collect domestic telephone records, claiming it meets several privacy and civil liberty benchmarks. The programme has satisfactorily complied with eight privacy safeguards that include transparency, oversight, data minimization and use limitation since its implementation in November, according to a report released by the NSA’s Civil Liberties and Privacy Office.

Additional to this, it was announced this week by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) that new legislation is set to be introduced, aimed at establishing a national commission to figure out how police can get at encrypted data without endangering Americans’ privacy. The bill, which McCaul first discussed in a December speech, is intended to cut through the heated rhetoric that has defined the encryption debate in the wake of the terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif.

In Asia, news this week was again somewhat limited, but of significant interest was the announcement from Singapore that the Government there is planning to merge its technology and media regulators in order to better support its plans to become a ‘smart nation’. The Infocomm Development Authority and the Media Development Authority are due to be merged into the Infocommunications Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA) on 1 April. In addition to this, the Govermnent has also announced the creation of a new agency to promote use of digital technology in government.

Net neutrality issues continued to flare up in India in the week passed, with sectoral regulator Trai conducting an open house discussion on differential pricing for data services, a key aspect of net neutrality, on January 21. In a notification, Trai said “interested stakeholders are invited to participate” in open house discussion on its consultation paper on ‘Differential Prices for Data Services’. Linked with this and of note, Facebook has said this week that it attempted to cooperate with the Telecom regulator's request to submit specific responses to the differential pricing paper by delivering a request for additional information, and that it got 1.4 million Indian users' responses.

Elsewhere, stories of note from around the World included the announcement by the Nuclear Threat Initiative organisation that twenty nations with significant atomic stockpiles or nuclear power plants have no government regulation in place requiring them to protect themselves from cyberattack. “The current global nuclear security system has dangerous gaps that prevent it from being truly comprehensive and effective,” said Nuclear Threat Initiative President Joan Rohlfing. “Until those gaps are closed, terrorists will seek to exploit them."

Also of interest, the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull this week addressed internet governance issues by calling for a free, open and secure internet, in a speech at the US Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC. Turnbull said it is essential for internet governance to be independent of individual governments but that it is essential at the same time that cyber space is not allowed to become a ‘lawless domain’.

Finally, announcements of interest from Global Institutions this week included the news that Egypt is set to host ITU’s 2016 Global Symposium for regulators. ITU and the National Telecom Regulatory Authority of Egypt (NTRA) have signed the Host Country Agreement for the 2016 Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR), which will take place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, from 11 to 14 May 2016. Organized by ITU and hosted by the Government of Egypt, the event will welcome world-class speakers with a dynamic programme focused around the hot topics challenging today’s ICT regulators.

From a people perspective, also of interest was the reveal of a new head of Europol’s European Cyber Crime Centre. Mr Steven Wilson has taken up his duties as the new Head of Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3 as of January 18 2016). Since its launch in January three years ago, EC3 has seen a steep increase in its activities supporting cybercrime investigations in EU Member States. The demands for its services are boosted by the positive effects of pooling cyber intelligence and resources to fight the most impactful cybercrime networks at EU level and also in close coordination with key law enforcement authorities from partners outside the EU.