27 January 2016

This week witnessed developments of interest from around the Globe in the domain of ICT.

In Europe, it was announced that businesses operating in multiple EU countries may be forced to comply with each of the different national data protection laws that apply in the countries in which they operate. The new guidance, issued by the Article 29 Working Party (a committee made of up representatives from the 28 national data protection authorities within the EU) could have potentially dramatic impacts for companies across the continent as clarification is sought on how organisations that have more than one establishment in the EU best move forwards in line with the varying data protection regulatory regimes in place.

From a cyber-security perspective, issues pertaining to Ukraine continued to dominate the headlines this week. Following a new wave of cyber-attacks reported to have hit power companies in the country, it was announced that Ukraine will establish a cyber-police unit as part of reforms underway in the nation’s law enforcement system. It has been reported that the newly established agency will focus on the fight against cyber-crime in Ukraine as well as protecting the country's state IT security interests.

Furthermore, cyber-privacy issues received considerable attention, with the US proposing to create an ‘ombudsman’ to deal with EU citizens' complaints about U.S. surveillance as part of talks to clinch a new EU-U.S. data transfer pact. Washington and Brussels are currently working against the clock in an attempt to seal a deal on protecting Europeans' data transferred across the Atlantic following the quashing of the previous agreement, Safe Harbour, on privacy concern grounds.

In the US, developments were overwhelmingly focused on cyber-privacy issues this week. However, cyber-security also received a fair degree of coverage, with the announcement that the US Government has handed over the its sensitive cybersecurity role to the military. The move has been reported as a snub to the Office of Personnel Management, the agency at the center of last year’s scandal over one of the worst government data breaches known to the public.

As aforementioned, encryption and privacy issues were of the greatest prominence in the USA this week, with a range of stories of significant interest cropping up. The first of these was the announcement that the American Civil Liberties Union is set to take its privacy fight to various states around the USA. The group has organized local lawmakers in 16 states to introduce a range of privacy legislation — related to student and employee rights as well as protection from government surveillance.

In addition to this, the NSA chief this week declared that ‘encryption is foundational to the future’ as the debate surrounding the topic continues to swirl and consume considerable media attention. In the wake of the terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., law enforcement and some lawmakers have been pressing tech companies to give investigators guaranteed access to secure data. But the tech and privacy community have resisted the push. They say any type of guaranteed access to data introduces vulnerabilities that weaken encryption and expose everyday Internet activity to hackers.

Finally, with an eye cast forward towards next month, the prospect of negotiations coming down to the wire on privacy legislation regarding the EU-USA data pact looms large over the ICT world. Developments can be expected in the coming days as the clock ticks down and the legislative cliff rapidly approaches.

In Asia, developments spanned across a range of topics. Of interest was the announcement that the People's Bank of China (PBOC), China's central bank, hopes to launch its own virtual currency to cut the cost of handling paper money and to give the government more control of the country's money supply. With discussion fermenting regarding the benefits and drawbacks of such systems, this move will doubtless generate considerable attention from across the Globe as one of the world’s premium economies moves forwards with implementation.

The net neutrality issues which have dominated ICT in India in recent weeks appear to be coming towards a head, with the open house discussion on differential pricing of Internet services coming to a close last week, and TRAI Chairman R.S Sharma indicating that the regulator will come out with its position by the end of the month.

Cyber-security developments were multiple and of particular note, with the most prominent stories including the assertion from Security researcher firm Palo Alto Networks, who revealed this week that a Chinese adversary group C0d0so0 or “Codoso” has reappeared. In addition to this it was announced that Singapore is currently planning the development of a cyber-security bill as a means of granting greater powers to the state’s cyber security agency. According to the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI), in association with this, the state’s spending on cyber security will also rise, to at least 8% of the government's IT budget.

Elsewhere, it was reported this week that some of the world's biggest banks have tested using blockchain technology to process payments without the involvement of a central clearing house, according to the financial technology company that facilitated the test. Also of interest, ISIS hackers have vowed to take revenge for a recent drone strike that took out top ISIS hacker Junaid Hussain. The Cyber Caliphate, one of the main ISIS hacking groups, posted an image with the proclamation on Tuesday to its official account on the messaging app Telegram.

Finally, announcements of interest from Global Institutions this week included the news that ICANN have extended the deadline for submissions relating to the their request for proposal for the Independent review of the At-Large community.

Last, but certainly not least, this week witnessed a new global dialogue established at the WEF in Davos, focused on getting the next 1.5 billion unconnected people online. A specified session was held as part of the efforts to build momentum and reach out to world leaders to push the issue of broadband connectivity to the top of the global agenda. It is the first time that so many world leaders have affirmed the vital importance of broadband to national growth and coalesced around a common broadband vision. A new Discussion Paper developed by ITU estimates that it will take global investment of USD 450 billion in network infrastructure to connect the next 1.5 billion unconnected people worldwide.