27 April 2016

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A somewhat subdued week of announcements from across the ICT world this week. However, a range of stories which may be of interest to IEEE emerged, these are detailed further below.

In Europe, the UK information commissioner Christopher Graham this week criticised the reluctance of the US to make changes to the Privacy Shield data transfer pact agreed in February 2016 with the European Commission. The Article 29 Working Party (A29WP) of European data protection authorities, including Graham, recently called for more work on Privacy Shield instead of approving the proposed pact to replace the now-defunct Safe Harbour agreement to ensure privacy protections for trans-Atlantic data transfers, the group called on the US and European Commission (EC) to revise and clarify several points.

Further news from the European continent included the announcement that EU countries are likely to be given two and half years longer than currently planned to make spectrum in the 700 MHz frequency band exclusively available for mobile services, according to plans under consideration by MEPs. The deadline for allocating the 694-790 MHz frequency band for use for "wireless broadband electronic communications services" should be extended to the end of 2022 instead of 30 June 2020 as was originally suggested, Italian MEP Stefano Maullu has proposed.

Also of note was the claim made by International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) that Europe will need an estimated 28,000 privacy specialists under the newly-minted EU data protection regulation. According to the industry group, specialists in the area are set to cash in as a result of the EU rules. The European Parliament approved the new privacy rules only last week after gruelling four-year negotiations. While the regulation sharpens safeguards on consumers personal data, lawyers and privacy experts are set to benefit from the rules once they go into effect in 2018.

In the US this week it was revealed by the US undersecretary of commerce for international trade, Stefan Selig, that the US government will review the non-binding opinion on the Privacy Shield issued by a body of EU data protection authorities last week. However, notably he suggested the US government would be wary of opening negotiations on altering the agreement to address the concerns raised in the opinion. "[The US government is] very cautious about not upsetting what was a delicate balance that was achieved when we negotiated the original text, so would be chary about doing anything that would do just that", Selig said, according to Reuters.

From a cyber-security perspective, it was reported this week that The United States has opened a new line of combat against the Islamic State, directing the militarys six-year-old Cyber Command for the first time to mount computer-network attacks that are now being used alongside more traditional weapons. The effort reflects President Obama's desire to bring American cyber weapons that have been aimed elsewhere, notably at Iran, into the fight against the Islamic State which has proved effective in using modern communications and encryption to recruit and carry out operations.

Also of interest, the news that top executives at dozens of technology companies in the US this week signed a letter encouraging Congress to provide more funds to help teach students computer science. The letter comes along with $48 million in private donations announced Tuesday to help the cause from companies like Google, Microsoft, AT&T and tech leaders such as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. We ask you to provide funding for every student in every school to have an opportunity to learn computer science, states the letter, sent to every member of Congress.

On a cyber privacy note, it was reported this week that the US working group on encryption will be aiming to provide its legislative recommendations to the House of Representatives in early January 2017. The working group, led by the House leaders of the Judiciary and the Energy and Commerce committees, this week announced a road map for their effort. The group will work diligently over the next several months to examine potential solutions to the challenges law enforcement officials face as encryption becomes more widespread.

A very quiet week in the world of Asian ICT, however news of note included the revelation that South Korea has now taken the top spot as the largest origin point for DDoS attacks in 2016. Imperva documented DDoS attacks coming out of South Korea at a rate nearly triple that of Russia, which came in second. The report documented that South Korea attained a proportion of global DDoS responsibility greater than the next three countries combined.

Also of interest, Telco Singtel this week launched its Cyber Security Institute in Singapore, a hybrid centre between an advanced cyber range and an educational institute. It is the first-of-its-kind in the region to test and train companies in dealing with sophisticated cyber threats, the institute provides cyber skills development and education programmes tailored to the varying needs of company boards, C-suite management, technology and operational staff.

News of note from elsewhere in the ICT world included the undertaking of the World's largest international cyber-defence exercise in Tallinn. 26 nations and more than 550 leading computer security professionals engaged in Locked Shields 2016, described as the biggest and most advanced international live-fire cyber-defence exercise in the world.

On the same theme of cyber-security, technology research firm Gartner this week reported that more than 25% of cyber-attacks will involve the internet of things (IoT) by 2020.

News emerging from Global Institutions this week included the announcement that a public comment period has begun based on the new ICANN Bylaws published to reflect the recommendations contained in the proposals by the IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group (ICG) and Cross Community Working Group on Enhancing ICANN Accountability (CCWG-Accountability) as provided to the ICANN Board on 10 March 2016 and transmitted to NTIA.