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

Rabat, Morocco
5 March 2009

Your Excellency Mr. Ahmed Reda Chami,
Distinguished Colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to have the opportunity of being here in Rabat today to share in the launch of your national cybersecurity programme.

Morocco is one of Africa’s great success stories. Your efforts to create a dynamic, business-friendly environment have translated into GDP growth well ahead of that of your European neighbours to the north, while comprehensive programmes targeting structural reforms and economic development have yielded consistently positive results.

In the area of information and communication technologies, your achievements have been impressive. Thanks to an enlightened regulatory approach and a solid commitment to stimulating investment, you’ve grown your mobile penetration from just under 25% to almost 75% in just five years.

Access to information and communication technologies is a basic human right in the 21st century.

It is therefore very pleasing to see that Morocco’s commitment to ensuring accessibility means that you now have the highest level of broadband penetration in mainland Africa. More than 95% of your Internet subscribers enjoy a high-speed connection.

This is critical, because in today’s highly digital environment, broadband Internet access is fast becoming as vital to social and economic development as basic utility networks like transport, water and power.

In the not-too-distant future, those lacking broadband connections will increasingly find themselves locked out of the full online experience, as multimedia-heavy websites predominate, and stall over dial-up links.

Broadband is becoming critical to fully-fledged membership of the Information Society. But the very tool that is providing us with access to a host of exciting new services – now and into the future – brings with it a special set of risks.

I am talking, of course, about cybersecurity.

What use is access to communications if we cannot guarantee peace and safety online?

The proliferation of always-on connections, however, has created a global network of open conduits which can inadvertently carry all kinds of malware.

Most of us are well aware of viruses and Trojan horses – but how many think to protect against spyware that installs itself secretly on a computer and then transmits personal information, secretly recording data through techniques such as logging keystrokes, recording web browsing history, or scanning information on the computer’s hard disk?

And how many realize that most of today’s viruses are not designed to disable a machine or destroy data, but rather to co-opt a computer into a vast network of ‘zombies’ which cyber-criminals can use for nefarious purposes, unknown to the user?

Up to 80% of all spam is now believed to be sent by such zombies, helping spammers avoid detection, and cutting their costs, since the computer’s owner bears the cost of the bandwidth.

Distinguished colleagues,

Protecting the online world from the activities of would-be cybercriminals and cyberterrorists is one of today’s most pressing priorities, and one that must be addressed and managed by the international community

The World Summit on the Information Society recognized that ICTs – and the enormous benefits they can bring, particularly to under-served communities – cannot flourish in the absence of user trust and confidence in the online world.

That is why, as facilitator of WSIS Action Line C5 on Building Confidence and Security in the use of ICTs, ITU took the initiative to launch the Global Cybersecurity Agenda, or GCA.

Designed as an international framework for cooperation and response, the GCA focuses on building partnership and collaboration between all relevant parties in the fight against cybercrime.

To ensure from the outset that we established a clear set of priorities taking into account the views of all stakeholders – governments, the private sector, UN agencies, civil society, research organizations and others – I first convened a special High Level Experts Group which brought together representatives from all sectors, and all world regions.

We were most privileged to include Mr Taïeb Debbagh, Secretary-General of Morocco’s Département de la Poste, des Télécommunications et des Technologies de l'Information in this Group, who was the leader of the HLEG Work Area on Organizational Structures. So let me take this opportunity to thank both him and the Government of the Kingdom of Morocco for this invaluable contribution.

Remarkably, given the scale and global nature of the problem, this is the first time we had all come together to forge strategies for collaboration. This, I believe, is one of ITU’s very greatest talents: our ability to get key decision makers around the table on an equitable footing to tackle the issues that affect not just the ICT industry, but anyone who uses ICTs.

Today, the GCA continues to gain momentum worldwide, with the support of global leaders including Nobel Peace Laureate Dr Óscar Arias Sánchez, President of the Republic of Costa Rica, and President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso.

Within this GCA framework, ITU launched the Child Online Protection or COP initiative as a global multi-stakeholder initiative which looks at addressing threats to children online in a holistic manner. COP is gaining worldwide support from a wide range of partners from governments, the UN, industry and civil society.

In September last year we also signed a key Memorandum of Understanding with Malaysia’s IMPACT – the International Multilateral Partnership Against Cyber-Threats – that will see IMPACT’s state-of-the-art global headquarters in Cyberjaya, Kuala Lumpur, become the physical home of the GCA.

Next month, at the invitation of the Malaysian Prime Minister, I will be visiting Malaysia, where ITU and IMPACT will be inaugurating this state-of-the-art infrastructure.

IMPACT provides a broad portfolio of services to support the GCA. Its state-of-the-art Global Response Centre has been designed to serve as the foremost cyberthreat resource centre in the world. The Centre provides the global community with a real-time aggregated early warning system that helps member countries quickly identify cyberthreats and provide critical guidance on effective counter measures.

It also provides nations with a unique electronic tool to enable authorized cyber-experts in different countries to pool resources and collaborate with each other remotely and securely, helping the global community respond immediately to cyberthreats, especially during crisis situations.

In the area of capacity building, IMPACT will conduct high-level briefings for the benefit of representatives of ITU Member States, along with training and skills development delivered in collaboration with leading ICT companies and institutions.

Such high-level, cross-industry briefings represent an unprecedented opportunity for Member States to gain invaluable information and privileged private sector insight about the latest trends, threats and emerging technologies.

IMPACT’s Centre for Security Assurance & Research will work with leading ICT experts to aggregate and develop global best practice guidelines, creating international benchmarks relevant to governments around the world.

And on request, the Centre will be empowered to conduct independent ICT security audits for government agencies or critical infrastructure companies, such as national utility and telecommunication companies.

IMPACT’s Security Assurance Division will also function as an independent, internationally recognized, voluntary certification body for cybersecurity.

Finally, under ITU leadership, IMPACT’s Centre for Policy & International Cooperation will work with partners including UN agencies, Interpol, the Council of Europe, the OECD and others to formulate new policies on cybersecurity and help promote the harmonization of national laws relating to cyberthreats and cybercrime.

What we are here today to launch – and to celebrate – is Morocco’s national cybersecurity programme, which will be a key link in the global cybersecurity chain. I am delighted that Morocco is on the first list of countries that will benefit from our cooperation with IMPACT.

Morocco is taking the essential first steps in enshrining the basic human right to communicate – safely, and in peace.

I therefore welcome and applaud your initiatives, and wish them every success.
Thank you