Committed to connecting the world

ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

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

ITU Telecom World 2013

Mobile Security Challenges and Policy in the Asean Community

Consumer Protection Perspectives : Keynote

20 November 2013, Bangkok, Thailand

Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be able to participate in this showcase session on mobile security challenges in the ASEAN community, hosted by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission.

Here in the fine city of Bangkok we are, of course, at the very heart of South East Asia and the dynamic ASEAN region.

I am honoured to be joined by experts at the highest level from governments, industry and academia to discuss this critical issue; and we are especially honoured by the presence of Group Captain Anudith Nakornthap, Minister for Information and Communication Technology.

This is an issue that is of particular relevance, given that common policies on mobile security will be drawn up and implemented across the ASEAN Community by 2015.

Mobile security challenges are critical because integrated and intelligent, mobile broadband is playing an ever-greater role in our lives as the world becomes ever-more interconnected.

Ladies and gentlemen,

From fixed-line telephony to mobile, from Internet to broadband, we have increased the reach and impact of connectivity to an unprecedented and extraordinary degree over the past thirty years.

Mobile broadband has introduced another step change in this journey, and is bringing Internet access to more people than ever before, at a faster rate than ever before.

Indeed, it is incredible to note that mobile broadband continues to show the fastest growth of any technology in human history, with growth rates of over 30% per year, and with close to 2.1 billion active mobile broadband subscriptions globally by the end of this year.

This trend has the power to drive connectivity, and all the socio-economic benefits it brings, far beyond anything we have seen before.

Mobile broadband is empowering global citizens everywhere, changing the way we work and communicate, improving all aspects of our lives from government services to health, education, finance, transport and more.

But mobile broadband, exemplified by the smartphone, for all the freedom and inspiration it offers, also brings risks and vulnerabilities.

As mobile usage grows, cyberattacks in the mobile arena have increased exponentially in volume and sophistication.

Mobile malware is on the rise, from viruses to worms, Trojans and spyware.

And the majority of mobile platforms simply do not have built-in mechanisms to detect malware.

Distinguished colleagues,

The impact of cyberattacks cannot be underestimated. Malware threats cause personal losses, corporate costs, and economic damage on an enormous scale, endangering national infrastructure, reputation and credibility.

A new report just out from security specialist McAfee and the Center for Strategic and International Studies estimates global losses due to cybercrime being as high as 500 billion US dollars annually, and hundreds of millions of people are directly affected by cybercrime every year.

The growth in cyberthreats and cybercrime is not the result of some strange epidemic, or a sudden change in human behaviour; it is simply a natural consequence of so many of the world’s people embracing the evident advantages that ICTs bring into our world.

Recently, however, the debate has gone beyond that.

It is no longer simply about how to protect ourselves from harm; it is also about finding the right balance between individual rights and collective protection.

It is clearly essential to protect:

  • the right of the freedom of expression;
  • the right to communicate;
  • and the right to privacy.

It is also important to ensure that we are protected from threats – but is it possible to do one thing without affecting the other? Where is the right balance?

These are not new questions; indeed, humanity has been looking for answers to them for centuries.

What has changed is that ICTs have become both pervasive and ubiquitous, and deliver unprecedented capabilities for both good and evil.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The race between criminals developing new malware, and security or legal experts countering this malware, will never be definitively won.

And let’s not forget that the private sector is involved in providing and operating most critical national infrastructure, linking government and industry closely together.

So ensuring cyber security can never be done by one party, by one government, or by one company. We are too linked, within and across regions, by the global, flat nature of the Internet. And perhaps this is the downside of our interconnectivity.

A meaningful response calls for international multi-stakeholder cooperation and coordination. The international community is only as strong as its weakest link, which may often be in emerging markets where resources, capacity, legal and technical training are more limited.

To avoid creating a security divide or cybercrime safe haven, and for the good of regional and global cybersecurity, governments therefore need to work together.

Building capacity, drafting and enforcing laws, training experts and educating consumers is imperative. We need to work together to define frameworks for communication, and share knowledge on new malware, technologies, research and best practice.

Distinguished colleagues,

In conclusion, let me reiterate the need for collective hard work to make the Internet safer for everyone.

We also need to ensure that fundamental human rights are not sacrificed when responding to new risks, or when using ICT capabilities to address real-world threats.

ITU has been playing its role in bringing stakeholders from across the globe together, but it is clearly evident that no single entity can achieve this task alone.

So we all need to work together with other intergovernmental bodies and ensure the active participation of all stakeholders, including local and regional bodies; the private sector; and civil society organizations.

And here I can give you ITU’s full commitment to the process of collaborating and working together – this is truly a multi-stakeholder effort.

I look forward to hearing the perspectives and initiatives of the excellent speakers here today, and to moving closer to the regional and international collaboration that is so vital to reducing mobile security threats and challenges.

Thank you for your attention.