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U.N. telecom boss warns of pending cyberwar

/ Source: TechNewsDaily

The United Nation’s Telecommunications chief is warning nations to join together in developing a coherent global cybersecurity peace treaty or face the very real possibility of an all-out cyberwar.

Hamadoun Touré, secretary-general of the U.N. International Telecommunications Union (ITU), has called for a comprehensive “cyber treaty” that would have a built-in legal and regulatory framework, as well as cross-continent contingency plans in the event of large-scale cyberattacks .

“We need to have an international framework to make cyberspace peaceful,” said Touré at a recent conference, adding that no nation is immune from potential threats. “People who think they are secure don't want anyone else to talk about it. I say there is no online superpower."

The ultimate goal, according to Touré, is to establish a cyberspace treaty which will spell out acceptable and unacceptable behavior and put the obligation on each country to police its own cyberspace.

Touré says a fundamental shift has taken place in cyberspace and that the world is currently ill-equipped to deal with it diplomatically.

“When I see Google and China fight, not China and the U.S., but a company and a country, it’s a new world order,” Touré said during a roundtable panel late last week at Westminster Media Forum in London. “Something new is happening around us. What do we do about it?”

Online, even the world's most powerful nations are vulnerable. Late last month, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn said a USB stick carrying malicious code spread undetected in 2008 through the Pentagon after it was inserted into a U.S. military laptop in the Middle East.

"That code spread undetected on both classified and unclassified systems, establishing what amounted to a digital beachhead, from which data could be transferred to servers under foreign control," Lynn wrote in a Foreign Affairs magazine article.

And it’s not just state secrets that need guarding.

A large part of the United States infrastructure — and much of the world’s for that matter — is now tied to the Internet, making online banking systems, utilities, energy, and government services vulnerable to both domestic and long distance cyberattacks.

“Our (U.S.) critical infrastructure has become inextricably linked through the Internet ,” J.R. Reagan, a public sector cybersecurity leader at Deloitte Consulting, told TechNewsDaily. “A cyberattack on any one of a number of utilities would have dramatic consequences at an individual, national and international level.”

Later this month in Brussels, leading cybersecurity experts from global companies and governments will attend DefenceIQ’s Cyber Security 2010 to address these cyber threats.

ITU spokesperson Sarah Parkes told TechNewsDaily the cybersecurity peace treaty is Touré’s “own personal vision”, and he has presented it as such.

“These statements are meant to raise awareness of an issue that is clearly a key global concern," Parkes said. "The secretary-general is promoting the need for dialogue on the issue and offering a lending hand given ITU’s clear expertise in the field.”