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First Meeting of the High-Level Experts Group
Geneva, Switzerland
5 October 2007

Remarks by ITU Secretary General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré

Firstly, allow me to begin by welcoming you to this, the inaugural First Meeting of the High-Level Experts Group of the Global Cybersecurity Agenda. This is a vital initiative for the ITU, which is working hard to address new and emerging challenges to the Information Society. I should like to thank you sincerely for your support for this major new initiative, which I am sure will benefit from your participation and input.

ITU is honoured by your presence here today, as an assembly of fifty experts from a cross-section of different institutions – policy-makers, business executives, academics and other experts.
 
ICTs are an engine of economic growth, as well as a vital enabler of communications. ICTs are a driving force for achieving the Millennium Goals by 2015. The latest review by the UN of progress towards the Millennium Goals suggests that we are in danger of not achieving them unless swift action is taken. ICTs have a key role to play in enabling us to meet the MDGs. 
 
The Information Society continues to grow rapidly. By the end of this year, ITU projects that there will be 3.25 billion mobile phones in circulation. As many as one in two people on the planet will have access to a mobile phone, representing the WSIS target that is closest to being achieved. Mobile telephony shows sustained growth throughout the developing world, whilst fixed telephony continues to grow, albeit more slowly and unevenly.

The Internet is also growing very fast, with the number of Internet users surpassing one billion in 2006, and nearly trebling from 390 million Internet users in 2000 to reach 1.13 billion Internet users by the end of 2006.

However, we are engaged in a fierce battle for the future integrity of the information society. From its origins as a private, secure defense research network, the Internet has grown to transform modern life as we know it. ICTs are transforming the way we work, play, communicate, exchange information and learn.

The future growth potential of the Internet is in danger from growing cyberthreats. Cyberthreats have grown in parallel to match the growth of the Information Society. By some estimates, spam now accounts for 90 per cent of all e-mail traffic and has reached such critical volumes that experts are warning that spam and other related threats could paralyze the Internet. Unless there is progress in building confidence and security in the use of ICTs, the decline in users’ trust in the Internet will limit its growth and transforming potential.

Cyberthreats are growing in impact and damage, as well as number. As the recent attacks on Estonia illustrate (His Excellency, the Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications, Mr. Juhan Parts, will address you next on the experience of Estonia, which was subjected to cyber-attacks), cyberthreats are growing in the size and scale of the damage they can inflict, as well as number.

I should also like to draw your attention to recent reports by a well-known American news network of the Aurora experiment, carried out in March of this year at the United States Department of Energy's laboratory in Idaho, which suggest that remote attacks over the Internet on the central control systems of power stations in the United States could plunge cities into darkness and threaten the power supply of the United States.  We are not talking about sensationalist headlines here – we are talking about the very real prospects of very real attacks that could be perpetrated by individuals, disaffected groups or other agencies.
 
Further, countries can no longer close their borders to cyberattacks. The availability of the Internet around the world means that hackers can now roam online freely to exploit vulnerabilities and attack with impunity, regardless of location.

Hackers are also moving from a central command-and-control model to a peer-to-peer model with a distributed command structure for controlling botnets across different countries.

Many countries are working on legislation to combat cybercrime and other misuses of ICTs, but these responses are piecemeal. Cyber-attacks are very difficult to guard against, whilst the legal framework fails to keep pace with technological developments.

Cyber-threats have become an international problem, needing a coordinated international response.  ITU is uniquely well-positioned to act as a forum to coordinate this international response. With its 192 Member States and more than 700 Sector Members and Associations, ITU is uniquely well-positioned to coordinate this international response.

The ITU launched the Global Cybersecurity Agenda last May to provide a framework within which the international response to the growing challenges to cybersecurity can be coordinated. Faced with the complex challenges and dangers that cyberthreats pose, a forum for dialogue is needed in which diverse views of Cybersecurity can be discussed to reach a common understanding of what Cybersecurity means. The Global Cybersecurity Agenda will unite stakeholders and existing initiatives to propose global strategies to address today’s challenges in the fight against cybercrime and to maintain cyberpeace.

Complex problems demand expert solutions. The complexity of the problem means that expert input and knowledge are required, however. This is why I have invited you here today, to this First Meeting of the High-Level Experts Group, to act as a multi-stakeholder, independent advisory board on this complex issue. Your knowledge and insights are vital in ensuring that this High-Level Experts Group can help shape and guide the work of the Global Cybersecurity Agenda. We are relying on you to propose workable strategies and practical steps to address the growing problem of cybercrime.

This High-Level Experts Group should not represent the specific interests of individual stakeholders, but should represent the collective wisdom of this panel of world-renowned experts. We are relying on you to propose a workable strategy to these pressing issues, along the lines of the structure of the proposed work plan of the High-Level Experts Group.

This proposed work plan has been developed for your consideration. It sets out a proposal for the organization of the work of the HLEG to meet the goals of the GCA initiative. This draft work plan also outlines some proposed Deliverables, Key Milestones and Working Methods for the HLEG. Over the course of the day, we shall discuss these deliverables, milestones and working methods in more detail, to ensure that we make an authoritative and meaningful contribution to the work of the Global Cybersecurity Agenda.

We expect an informed debate to reach an agreed work plan, with clear allocation of responsibilities for developing strategies to address the seven main goals of the Global Cybersecurity Agenda to tackle cybercrime and promote cybersecurity worldwide.


 

 

 

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