Speech from Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, ITU Secretary-General

Impact WCSS Program
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
20 May 2008

Honourable Prime Minister of Malaysia,
Chairman of IMPACT,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentleman,

Let me start by saying that is an honour for me to be here with you all, and a privilege to be invited by the Honourable Prime Minister to be a Member of the IMACT Advisory Board.

Initiatives such as IMPACT have never been more necessary. While Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have transformed modern lifestyles with real-time communications, a borderless and almost unlimited access to information and a wide range of online services, they have also opened up new opportunities for criminals to exploit online vulnerabilities, steal individuals’ identities and attack countries’ critical infrastructure. The hard reality is that ICTs have become a tool for cybercrime and cyberterrorism. It is a myth – and a dangerous one – to believe that what happens in the virtual world only has a limited impact on the physical world. As a result, cybersecurity must become a cornerstone of every aspect of keeping ourselves, our countries and our world safe.

As you all well know, threats to the information society and our critical infrastructures are growing. Cybercriminals are becoming better organized and increasingly connected, making use of the same tools that we have come to rely on – except that they use them for malicious and often extremely destructive purposes. It is estimated that almost 20% of computers connected to the Internet are affected by Botnets. ICTs have changed the dynamics of terrorism as small groups or individuals can now have access to ICTs resources through tens of thousands – or even millions – of computers under their control which can be used, for instance, to launch denial-of-service attacks on a nation’s critical infrastructure.

Thankfully, individual governments are beginning to respond. What’s more, there is a growing awareness that any response to cybercrime must be coordinated in order to be effective. The launch of IMPACT is an example of a response initiated by Malaysia but which, at the same time, recognizes the global, borderless scope of the challenges we face in providing safe and secure virtual services.

If we are to create a future where cybercrime and cyberterrorism are under control, it is vital that we are better connected and more organized than the criminals we are fighting. Recognizing this fact, at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), leaders from around the world entrusted ITU to play a leading role in coordinating the worldwide response to these global challenges. This is why, just over a year ago, on 17 May 2007, ITU launched the Global Cybersecurity Agenda (GCA) as a leading initiative to organise a collaborative response to the issues threatening cybersecurity. I am happy to say that the interest has been enormous, with active participation and contributions from world-renowned specialists in the private sector and from across academia, international organizations and government. The High-Level Expert Group sessions held at the ITU have been extremely well-attended and there is now an expert panel of over 100 leading experts exploring long-term strategies to promote cybersecurity and to combat cybercrime and other threats.

With its 191 Member States and more than 700 Sector Members including leading industry players, ITU represents a unique, neutral forum in which experts from a range of different backgrounds can meet to debate the issues and – together – formulate solutions. The beauty of the GCA is that it builds synergies with existing initiatives and avoids duplication. After all, the less we reinvent the wheel, the better for all. For example, the work of the Council of Europe's Convention on Cybercrime has been very instructive in the legal area; leading software and hardware companies are active in the technical work area; ITU's own work in standardization, Radio-communications and Development has also been very informative.

Every GCA member brings a specific expertise to the table. By bundling our strengths we create an alliance that is significantly stronger as a whole than as the sum of its individual parts. With its focus on cyberterrorism, IMPACT promises to be a key partner in the implementation of the GCA. I believe that IMPACT can become an important Hub of Excellence, providing services, training, R&D, and an effective response centre – forming a crucial, operational defence against all types of cyberterrorism.

The GCA’s role is to link existing initiatives and provide an overarching framework for consensus. This allows each stakeholder Group to focus on its own mandate, while ensuring cooperation with other stakeholders. The GCA already has INTERPOL – the global organization for international law enforcement, with 186 member states – sharing ideas with UNODC, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Both these organizations are putting heads together with the likes of APECTEL (Asia Pacific Economic Telecommunications and Information Working Group) and UNITAR (United Nations Institute for Training and Research). By working together in this manner, our chances of success on a global level are increased significantly. And by involving global experts in the process from the beginning, we help to ensure that the solutions decided upon get implemented properly.

This Summit is very timely because it gives us an opportunity to build the necessary synergies between IMPACT and the GCA, right when IMPACT’s contribution is most needed. When I leave this beautiful city of Kuala Lumpur, I will be flying directly to Geneva for the Second Meeting of the High Level Experts Group (HLEG) of the Global Cybersecurity Agenda, where ITU and Malaysia are already collaborating closely. Mr. Shalsul Jafni Shafie of Malaysia is leading the GCA Work Area on International Cooperation and his input to HLEG has been extremely valuable in helping to work out global strategies. In fact, the HLEG is in the process of finalizing the development of strategies in its five work areas and now – just one year after it was launched – GCA is entering a new phase; a phase in which the establishment of strategic partnerships with major initiatives will transform these strategies into action.

So, in response to the request from the Chair of IMPACT for collaboration with the GCA and with the blessing of the Honourable Prime Minister, let me formally announce that ITU will begin immediately to work together with IMPACT and the government of Malaysia to ensure that the cooperative efforts of the GCA and IMPACT are both fruitful and effective. I am confident that the goals of IMPACT are fully in line with the principles and strategies of the Global Cybersecurity Agenda and I welcome IMPACT as a strategic partner in our collective fight against cybercrime.

Let me end by wishing you a productive and successful programme at this inaugural event. Cyberterrorism has already been struck a blow, if only by the level of experience and knowledge represented here today, and the degree of dedication that is evident. Under the framework of the Global Cybersecurity Agenda I look forward to working together with you to make the world – online and off – a safer place to be.