Cybersecurity: A global issue demanding a global approach

ECOSOC Special Event Cybersecurity Deborah Taylor Tate

With the increasing proliferation of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and the growing opportunity for real-time borderless exchange, cybersecurity is a complex transnational issue that requires global cooperation for ensuring a safe Internet. According to a 2011 Norton study, threats to cyberspace have increased dramatically in the past year afflicting 431 million adult victims globally – or 14 adults victims every second, one million cybercrime victims every day.

Cybercrime has now become a business which exceeds a trillion dollars a year in online fraud, identity theft, and lost intellectual property, affecting millions of people around the world, as well as countless businesses and the Governments of every nation.

To address the issues and challenges around cybersecurity and cybercrime, the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) held a Special Event on “Cybersecurity and Development”, organized jointly by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) on 9 December in New York.  

Chaired by the President of ECOSOC, with the participation of the Secretary-General of the ITU and the Chair of the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development, the special event brought together Member States, the United Nations system, the public and private sector, as well as other civil society organizations interested in the areas of cybersecurity and cybercrime. 

The plenary and panel discussion aimed to (1) build awareness at the international policy level by providing ECOSOC Members with a picture of the current situation and challenges concerning cybersecurity and its links to development; (2) identify a range of best practice policies and initiatives in place around the world to build a culture of cybersecurity; and (3) explore options for a global response to rising cybercrime. 

Each representative on the panel discussed the multifaceted issues surrounding cybersecurity, and the necessity for member states, the private sector, civil society organizations and law enforcement agencies to work in concert to manage the risks of our increasing interconnectivity. 

Speakers discussed the role of economic disparities between nations and the fact that developing countries do not have sufficient capacity to combat cyber attacks and cybercrime, and its global threat to cyberpeace. The lack of partnership between developed and developing countries could generate “safe havens”, where cyber criminals can make use of the legal loopholes, and the lack of strong security measures present sometimes in developing countries to perpetrate cybercrimes.

Drawing attention to challenges of protecting children online, Ms. Deborah Taylor Tate, ITU Special Envoy and Laureate for Child Online Protection, shared, “We must arm our kids with the tools, when they take their first step and click in the cyberworld… Peer to peer and teaching is the best form of advocacy.” She encouraged parents, community leaders and governments to access the media literacy guidelines provided online by ITU.

During the interactive session, the panelists and responding member states discussed the need for a future global convention to develop strategies including the possibility of building upon the Budapest Convention, an international treaty seeking to harmonize national criminal laws of computer crimes such as copyright infringement, fraud, child pornography, hate crimes and breaches of network security.

In his concluding remarks, President of ECOSOC, H.E. Mr. Lazarous Kapambwe pressed, “We have agreed that cybersecurity is a global issue that can only be solved through global partnership.  It affects all of our organizations…and the United Nations is positioned to bring its strategic and analytic capabilities to address these issues.”

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