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ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

Statement from ITU Secretary General on recent revelations from research on SIM cloning

I think the findings of Karsten Nohl on SIM cloning are hugely significant and I applaud his efforts and ground-breaking research. These findings show us where we could be heading in terms of cybersecurity risks but, importantly, Nohl’s work is putting us one step ahead of the risk, which should allow us to work together and ensure that this criminal potential is never realized.

This work also highlights the significant importance of international cooperation across all sectors including governments, industry, academia, consumer groups and, of course, professional crypto specialists such as Karsten Nohl.

Cybersecurity is a subject that already affects each and every one of us and now we see clearly that, with the possibility of SIM hacking, it literally involves all of us, especially when you consider that we are on the brink of seeing as many mobile cellular subscriptions as there are people on the planet and, by the end of this year, there will be some 2.1 billion active mobile-broadband subscriptions.

In terms of global communications, we are living through the most exciting period in human history, where everyone can have the potential to fully participate in the interconnected knowledge-driven economy and society.

But as cyber-presence grows, individuals, businesses and even nations are now experiencing negative social and financial impacts from the misuse of mobile technologies. The growth in cyber threats is a consequence of so many of the world’s people embracing the evident advantages that mobile technologies bring into our world. Proactive security research, such as that carried out by Karsten Nohl, allows us to continue enjoying the benefits of mobile technologies while strengthening security and privacy of each and every user.

As smartphone usage continues to grow worldwide, mobile platforms will become ever more tempting targets for cybercriminals. With the mobile platform today, threats come in the form of malicious apps and malware targeting mobile phones grew by 58% in 2012. And now, thanks to this research, we know there is the real risk of SIM cloning which raises risk levels significantly.

We need to address these issues urgently and collaboratively, because in today’s world everything depends on information and communication technologies (ICTs), such as mobile devices – and particularly on the networks which underpin them.

In light of these recent research we will provide immediate support by informing relevant constituencies, mainly the community of Telecommunication Regulators and our ITU Members which includes 193 Member States and more than 700 ’Sector’ Members. These Sector Members, mainly from the private sector as well as academia and civil society, include of course major mobile operators. We will continue to work in close coordination with Mobile Operators Associations, as we have done in the past, involving all stakeholders when dealing with such security risks.

It is also very important for me to emphasize that while we are talking about cyber risks, the fact is that the opportunities presented by the cyber world far outweigh the dangers.

I believe that in the fullness of time an effective global framework on securing cyberspace and telecommunication networks is possible – with the full participation of governments, the private sector and civil society.

But we will need to continue working hard to improve coordination and collaboration – and of course trust – between all the different stakeholders.
Hamadoun I. Touré
Geneva, 18 July 2013.