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The Internet has become an integral part of modern societies,
propelling the end user to the forefront of communication. All
kinds of information is available, in multiple formats. But how
much of that information is genuine? Is information inaccurate
or misleading — or even worse, is content malicious? Fraud,
theft and forgery exist online just as they do offline. If users are
to benefit from the full advantages of the Internet, then confidence in the infrastructure is of the utmost importance.
This is why world leaders at the second phase of the
World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis in
November 2005 entrusted ITU to take the lead in coordinating
international efforts to promote cybersecurity. They named
ITU as the sole facilitator for WSIS Action Line C5 on building
confidence and security in the use of information and communication
technologies (ICT). In line with these developments,
ITU membership has been calling for a greater role to
be played by ITU in matters of cybersecurity through various
Resolutions, Decisions, Programmes and Recommendations.
Since 2006, ITU has undertaken a wide range of activities
to make communication over public telecommunication networks
secure, reliable and user-friendly.
The ITU Global Cybersecurity Agenda (GCA), launched on
17 May 2007 by ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun I. Touré,
is a framework for international cooperation to enhance confi
dence and security in the information society. It comprises
five strategic pillars: legal measures; technical and procedural
measures; institutional structures; capacity building, and international
cooperation (see chart).
|The five pillars of the ITU Global Cybersecurity Agenda
The Secretary-General also appointed a High-Level Experts
Group from government, industry, international organizations,
academia and research. Their goal was to propose strategies
for a global response to the constantly evolving nature of cyberthreats
and the increasing sophistication of cybercrime.
After meetings in October 2007 and in May 2008, the group
presented its strategic proposals to the ITU Secretary-General
for assisting Member States to promote cybersecurity.
Proposals that are in line with the ITU mandate have
been taken into account in the work programmes of its
General Secretariat and three Sectors: Radiocommunication
(ITU–R); Telecommunication Standardization (ITU–T); and
Telecommunication Development (ITU–D).
Establishing appropriate legal infrastructure is an integral
component of any national cybersecurity strategy. As part of
the 2006 Doha Action Plan (DAP), ITU’s Telecommunication
Development Bureau (BDT) has been assisting Member States
to understand the legal aspects of cybersecurity in order to
harmonize their legal frameworks.
Understanding Cybercrime: A Guide for Developing
Countries, published in 2009, is an important part of this
work and was intended as a tool for the developing world to
better understand and assess the national and international
implications of growing cyberthreats. In that same year BDT
released a Toolkit for Cybercrime Legislation, developed by
a group of experts, to provide Member States with sample
legislative language and reference material to assist in harmonizing
cybercrime laws and procedural rules. BDT also
produced a background paper entitled Cybersecurity: The
Role and Responsibilities of an Effective Regulator for the
Global Symposium for Regulators, held in Beirut, Lebanon in
Technical and procedural measures
ITU’s work on security covers a broad range of activities
from network attacks, denial of service, theft of identity,
eavesdropping, telebiometrics for authentication to security
for emergency telecommunications.
Standards-development bodies have a vital role to play in
addressing security vulnerabilities in protocols. ITU–T holds
a unique position in the field of standardization in the sense
that its work brings together the private sector and governments
to coordinate work and promote the harmonization
of security policy and security standards on an international
Along with many key security recommendations, ITU–T
has developed an overview of security requirements, security
guidelines for protocol authors, security specifications for
IP-based systems, as well as guidance on how to identify cyberthreats
and countermeasures to mitigate risks. ITU–T also
provides the international platform for the development of the
protocols that protect current and next-generation networks
ITU’s work addresses security aspects in NGN architecture,
quality of service, network management, mobility, billing
and payment. ITU also reviews enhancements to security
specifications for mobile end-to-end data communications
and considers security requirements for web services and application
protocols. In addition, it is now looking into new
security areas related to cloud computing and smart grid.
In the move to Internet Protocol (IP)-based services, ITU’s
H.235.x series Recommendations on “H.323 Security” define
the security infrastructure and services (including authentication
and privacy) for use by the H.300-Series IP multimedia
systems (such as VoIP and videoconferencing) in point-topoint
and multipoint applications. The H.235.x standards
provide privacy to service providers and enterprises, while
ensuring interoperability of multimedia products. The identity
of users communicating through IP media is correctly authenticated
and authorized using H.235.x, protecting their communications
against different critical security threats.
Real-time multimedia encryption adds a further layer
of security, guarding against call interception. ITU’s J.170
“IPCablecom Security Specification” defines security requirements
for IPCablecom architecture enabling cable television
operators to deliver secure two-way capability in the provision
of IP services, including VoIP.
ITU’s X.805 Recommendation defines the security architecture
for systems providing end-to-end communications.
This Recommendation allows operators to pinpoint vulnerable
points in a network and address them, and ITU’s security
framework extends this with guidelines on protection against
ITU–T X.1205 “Overview of Cybersecurity” provides a
definition of cybersecurity and a taxonomy of security threats.
It discusses the nature of the cybersecurity environment and
risks, possible network protection strategies, secure communication
techniques and network survivability (even under
All ITU study groups conduct security-related activities
and review security questions as part of their work. But it is
ITU–T Study Group 17 that is the lead study group on telecommunications
security and identity management. The group has
approved over 100 Recommendations on security for communications,
mainly in the X series of recommendations, either
by itself, or jointly with the International Organization for
Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical
Commission (IEC) or with other relevant organizations. It regularly
updates the manual on Security in telecommunications
and information technology as an overview of security issues
(the fourth edition was issued in September 2009). It also
publishes electronically a Security Compendium on its website
containing a catalogue of approved ITU–T Recommendations
related to security and presenting an extract of security definitions
from ITU–T and other sources.
ITU–T Study Group 17 launched the ICT Security Standards
Roadmap promoting collaboration between international
standards bodies. This became a joint effort in January 2007,
when the European Network and Information Security Agency
(ENISA) and the Network and Information Security Steering
Group (NISSG) joined the initiative. The Roadmap promotes
the development of security standards by highlighting existing
standards, as well as current and future work among key
standards-development organizations. The Roadmap informs
users about security standards.
The role of ITU–T Study Group 17 was confirmed and
reinforced by the World Telecommunication Standardization
Assembly, which took place in Johannesburg, South Africa, in
2008 (WTSA-08). Resolution 50 on “Cybersecurity” is guiding
ITU–T work to build Recommendations sufficiently robust to
prevent exploitation by malicious parties. And Resolution 52
on “Countering and combating spam” calls for the integration
of the technical means to combat spam into the work
of ITU–T study groups. Also from WTSA-08 is Resolution 58:
“Encourage the creation of national Computer Incident
Response Teams, particularly for developing countries”, which
ITU–T Study Group 17 is implementing.
Since September 2009, seven correspondence groups
have been established on subjects including security coordination,
e-health, cloud computing and smart grid security, national
centres for network security (NCNS), strategy for online
transaction security, decentralized architecture for global IP
network name resolution system, and cybersecurity information
exchange framework (CYBEX).
Turning to radiocommunications, wireless applications
such as 3G (or IMT-2000) are becoming an integral part of
daily life, and the global use and management of frequencies
require a high level of international cooperation. Global
frequency management is increasingly important for building
confidence and security in the use of ICT.
This brings to the fore the mission of ITU–R to ensure,
rational, equitable, efficient and economical use of the radio-
frequency spectrum by all radiocommunication services,
including those using satellite orbits, and to carry out studies
and adopt Recommendations on radiocommunication
Safeguarding quality of service against degradation or denial
of service is vital for the secure functioning of networks,
and many of ITU–R’s latest Recommendations on generic
requirements and the protection of radiocommunications
against interference are relevant for security. ITU’s work in
radiocommunication standardization continues, matching the
constant evolution in modern telecommunication networks.
ITU–R has approved Recommendations on security
principles and mechanisms for 3G networks (in particular
Recommendation ITU–R M.1078, but also Recommendations
M.1223, M.1457 and M.1645). It has also released
Recommendations on security issues in network management
architecture for digital satellite systems (Recommendation
ITU–R S.1250) and performance enhancements of transmission
control protocol over satellite networks (Recommendation
As part of ITU’s collaboration with the International
Multilateral Partnership Against Cyber Threats (IMPACT), the
Global Response Centre (GRC) plays a pivotal role in realizing
the Global Cybersecurity Agenda’objective of putting
technical measures in place to combat new and evolving cyberthreats.
Working with leading partners in academia and
governments, the centre provides the global community with
a real-time aggregated early-warning system. BDT is working
with IMPACT to bring this resource to interested Member
States as part of a broader strategy to assist them in their
efforts against cyberthreats.
GRC offers two prime services: Network Early Warning
System (NEWS); and Electronically Secure Collaboration
Application Platform for Experts (ESCAPE). NEWS is designed
to help countries identify cyberthreats early on and provide
critical guidance on what measures to take to mitigate them.
ESCAPE is an electronic tool that enables authorized cyberexperts
across different countries to pool resources and collaborate
with each other remotely, within a secure and trusted
environment. By pooling resources and expertise from many
different countries on short notice, ESCAPE enables individual
nations and the global community to respond immediately to
cyberthreats, especially during crisis situations.
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The dearth of institutional structures to deal with cyber
incidents (attacks, fraud, destruction of information, dissemination
of inappropriate content) is a genuine problem in responding
to cyberthreats. BDT, in partnership with IMPACT, is
deploying capabilities to build capacity at the national and
regional level. Coordination is under way with several ITU
Member States, focusing on assistance for the establishment
of National Computer Incident Response Teams (CIRTs).
With support received from the Australian Government
and in partnership with other organizations (for example,
AusCERT and IMPACT), ITU is assisting the Pacific Island countries
in establishing a Pacific Computer Emergency Response
Team (CERT). In cooperation with IMPACT, ITU also helped
Afghanistan in a feasibility study on establishment of a national
People are the weakest link. One of the key challenges of
cybersecurity is educating the end user. Understanding and
awareness of the potential dangers are critical if the end user
is to benefit from ICT safely.
This is a matter that concerns all stakeholders from governments
and industry to education both at school and at
home. Awareness of the opportunities offered by a secure
cyber environment and of the threats inherent to cyberspace
is vital. Programmes aimed at raising awareness and building
capacity at all levels are important, and these also need to be
undertaken within the international arena.
To assist Member States wishing to design their national
approach for Cybersecurity and Critical Information
Infrastructure Protection (CIIP), BDT has developed the
National Cyber Security/CIIP Self-Assessment Tool, and is updating
the current version. BDT has also developed the ITU
Botnet Mitigation Toolkit to track botnets and mitigate their
impact, with a particular emphasis on the problems specific to
emerging Internet economies.
BDT is organizing regional cybersecurity forums for all ITU
regions, using them as capacity-building vehicles for its different
programmes and activities as well as operational platforms
for cooperation at the regional and international levels.
In order to build capacity, BDT, through IMPACT’s Training
and Skills Development Centre, conducts high-level briefings
for representatives of Member States, providing them invaluable
exposure and private-sector insight on latest trends, potential
threats and emerging technologies.
The Internet and ICT have enabled interconnection between
countries that was not possible before. Countries cannot
easily close their borders to incoming cyberthreats and
also cannot contain those coming from within. Attempts to
solve these challenges at national or regional levels are important,
but because cybersecurity is as global and far-reaching
as the Internet, solutions need to be harmonized across all
borders. This necessarily entails international cooperation, not
only at government level, but also with industry, nongovernmental
and international organizations.
International Multilateral Partnership Against Cyber Threats (IMPACT)
In March 2009, ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun I.
Touré and Malaysia’s then Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Abdullah
Haji Ahmad Badawi inaugurated a state-of-the-art facility in
Cyberjaya, Malaysia, which houses resources, facilities and
experts to effectively address the world’s most serious cyberthreats.
Called ITU–IMPACT, it is a global, multi-stakeholder
public-private partnership and provides the physical and
operational home for ITU’s Global Cybersecurity Agenda. As
of August 2010, more than 50 Member States had formally
agreed to take part in the services offered by ITU–IMPACT.
ITU maintains a “virtual showcase” in Geneva of the earlywarning
system, crisis management and real-time analysis of
ITU Cybersecurity Gateway
The ITU Cybersecurity Gateway was revamped in 2009 to
enable better information access, dissemination and online
collaboration among stakeholders working in cybersecurity,
with feedback being incorporated into the Gateway.
Child Online Protection
As part of the Global Cybersecurity Agenda, ITU in conjunction
with other UN agencies and partners launched Child
Online Protection (COP) in November 2008 as an international
collaborative initiative for action to promote cybersecurity
for children and young people by providing guidance on
safe online behaviour. Several events have been organized,
some examples being A Strategic Dialogue on Safer Internet
Environment for Children, held in June 2009 in Tokyo, Japan,
and an Open Forum on Child Online Protection, organized
during the 4th Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in November
2009. Guidelines for protecting children online have been
produced for policy-makers, industry, educators, parents,
guardians and children. They were prepared by ITU in close
collaboration with many organizations, including the United
Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute
(UNICRI), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the
United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR),
INTERPOL and the European Network and Information
The COP Global Initiative announced on 17 November
2010 by the Patron of COP, Laura Chinchilla, President of
Costa Rica and ITU Secretary-General, Hamadoun Touré at a
ceremony in San Jose, Costa Rica, will provide a framework for
coordinating existing global efforts and implementing a series
of safety training and prevention activities. This new phase of
the initiative will see COP shift from the production of guidelines
to the development of industry codes of conduct, the
establishment of national hotlines, and the development of
national road maps and legislative toolkits.
Cybercriminals are not the only threats to the Internet. The
vulnerabilities of ICT are a lure for potentially more damaging
activities such as espionage. Cyber warfare and espionage
have made their appearance and can pose serious threats to
critical information infrastructure.
Even though national measures are being taken, cyberthreats
remain an international problem. Loopholes in legal
frameworks are being exploited by perpetrators, and harmonization
between existing laws is far from satisfactory. Coupled
with the absence of appropriate organizational structures,
there is a genuine problem in responding to cyberthreats.
This is without looking at the constant evolution and sophistication
of such threats and the vulnerabilities in software,
and more recently hardware, applications. With the phenomenal
growth in mobile adoption and new trends such as cloud
computing, cyberthreats will likely spread to new levels.
Cyberthreats are global and therefore the solutions must
be global too. It is vital that all countries reach a common
understanding on cybersecurity to provide protection against
unauthorized access, manipulation and destruction of critical
ITU believes that the strategy for a solution must include
identifying existing national and regional initiatives in order
to set priorities and work effectively with all relevant players.
With its 192 Member States and more than 700 privatesector
companies and Associates, ITU is an excellent forum for
action and response to promote cybersecurity and to tackle
cybercrime. Its broad membership includes least developed
countries, developing and emerging economies, as well as
Much has been achieved, but cybersecurity is a constantly
evolving challenge that needs to be continually addressed,
because of the ever-changing nature of ICT. ITU will work unremittingly
to build confidence and trust, ensuring a safe and
secure cyber environment for all.