24 February 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.

A relatively quiet week in the world of ICT this time around, with the monitor reflecting this.

However, there were certain stories of note which may prove to be of interest for IEEE both now and moving forward. In Europe, Internet governance and net neutrality received some coverage in the form of developments relating to the next generation mobile broadband network. It was reported that in the coming months, it is anticipated that the European Commission, tech firms, and various industries will demonstrate European progress on developing 5G. A Commission official revealed that the intention is to come up with fresh ideas by July, in order to showcase the first results by 2018. Linking this to issues of governance, key objectives of the 5G public private partnership (PPP), launched last year, are outlined in a Commission white paper on 5G: empowering vertical industries, that will be unveiled during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on 22-25 February.

Net neutrality implications are also tied to the development of this mobile broadband network, with Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao having issued a stark warning this week that 5G services will be a disappointment in Europe unless standards meet local needs and without uniform telecom regulations from one country to the next. Evidently this will be an issue to monitor moving forwards.

Also featuring heavily in Europe this week, cyber privacy issues arose with the European Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip stating that he supported Apples decision to refuse unblocking the iPhone of a terrorist, as requested by US authorities. He declared Identification systems are based on encryption. I am strongly against having any kind of backdoor to these systems. With the issue causing considerable dispute in the US, this will clearly be a debate to monitor moving forwards as other regions and states may face similar circumstances and hence will be required to formulate/articulate opinions on the issue.

The US ICT agenda this week was dominated by discussions and disagreement regarding Apples decision to refuse unblocking the iPhone of a terrorist, as requested by US authorities. It was reported that a number of major tech firms, such as Google, WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter have all come out in support of Apples position on the issue. However, contesting the stance taken by Apple, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a motion on Friday seeking to compel Apple Inc to comply with a judge's order to unlock the encrypted iPhone in question. In response, a senior Apple executive, speaking with reporters on condition of anonymity, characterized the Justice Department's filing as an effort to argue its case in the media before the company has a chance to respond. This back and forth has caused an escalation in the ongoing dispute between the Obama administration and Silicon Valley firms over security and privacy.

Despite the over-arching theme of US reporting this week being focused on the aforementioned issue, cyber-security concerns did receive a degree of coverage. The news of note being that a group of experts from the private and public sectors, including former White House Special Assistant to the President for Cybersecurity Ari Schwartz, this week launched the Coalition for Cybersecurity Policy and Law to collaborate with and help educate policymakers and develop consensus-driven policy solutions.

In addition to this, this week the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), along with the Department of Justice, issued two sets of guidelines and procedures, required by the Cybersecurity Act of 2015, for federal agencies and the private sector to use regarding the sharing of cyber threat indicators.

From a pan-Asian perspective, developments of interest this week included the announcement by the Chinese state that new regulations will be enforced in order to ban foreign companies from publishing online media, games and other creative content within Chinas borders from next month onwards. This marks a decisive step forwards in the nations Internet Governance regime, and, perhaps a worrying one.

Cyber-security issues also achieved prominence in the pan-Asian ICT news cycle, with it being reported that the Indian Government, as well as industry, are now reaching out to major cyber-security companies in United States and Israel to boost their internal systems. Companies including software giant Microsoft and cyber security expert Blackduck are in talks with the government to address cyber security concerns and needs. "The industry needs smart and powerful tools to protect the network, which needs to be fully secured. Special protection is required, which the service provider has realised," said Peeyush Agrawal, Member (Technology), Department of Telecommunications (DoT).

On this theme, it was also reported this week that a rapidly widening cyber-vulnerability gap between the most and least internet-dependent Asia-Pacific nations is threatening to encourage online attacks on critical infrastructure. The report which detailed this, published on Wednesday by consultancy firm Deloitte, coincides with a growing tone of caution over the internet of things technology projects that seek to build greater web connectivity into everyday items and services but may leave users and the systems themselves open to ever more pernicious attacks.

On a somewhat more positive note, it was revealed this week that Raytheon, the international defense and technology solutions provider, has partnered with Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi on a program to build cyber skills in the UAE. The four-day cyber security workshop on the Khalifa University campus was launched on Monday, marking the launch of Raytheon's global 'Cyber Academy' designed to train cyber-skilled workforces for the future.

News of interest from other parts of the ICT world included the announcement that there are now more than a billion 4G mobile connections in use around the world, and 4G will account for a third of all mobile connections at the end of the current decade, according to the latest sector forecast from the GSM Association (GSMA). Also of note, Dells latest annual threat report, published this week, has highlighted that acquiring the capability to analyse encrypted traffic should be a top priority for businesses in 2016. The report reveals that a continued surge in SSL/TLS encryption is giving cyber criminals more opportunities to conceal malware from firewalls. Something to consider for the entire ICT world moving forwards as it seeks to strengthen its resilience against cyber-threats.

News of note from Global institutions this week included the announcements that Europol's and Chainalysis have reinforced their co-operation in the fight against cyber-crime, the First Digital Advisory Council hosted by DIGITALEUROPE was a reported success and that the EU and Brazil have signed an agreement to work together in order to develop 5G, the next generation of communication networks.