Security Challenges to Telecom's Future

With the Internet still growing fast, phishing, identity theft, spyware, and viruses will only proliferate, say leaders at ITU Telecom World

Security threats such as identity theft, viruses, spyware and phishing will challenge the future of global communications if solutions aren't found, according to a panel of experts at ITU Telecom World yesterday.

"It's almost a war and there are many, many questions and too few answers," said Robert Shaw, deputy head of ITU's strategy and policy unit.

The problem is growing. For example, Verisign, which operates the dot-com and dot-net domains, registers 1.5 billion security events every day, with that figure continuously rising, according to Neil McGowan, EVP of Verisign Communication Services.

"Every time the clock ticks, a spoof site goes up trying to imitate a real business," McGowan said.

A similar view was offered by Jae-Suk Yun, senior researcher of the infrastructure protection division, Korea Information Security Agency. He said one of the critical things to be done was to create a "culture of security," while he suggested that solutions needed cooperation among countries and with government involvement.

"Some might say that's government interference, but when it comes to security, it's necessary for the government to be there," he said, adding that public private collaboration was necessary.

Robert Higgins, managing director of Motorola's wireless security services division, said that technology alone would not solve the issues. "Everyone looks to technology for the answers," Higgins noted, "but the best companies tightly integrate technology with people, process and procedures."

He also noted that carriers are starting to offer security as a value-added service, a trend he predicted would grow.

Katsumasa Shinozuka, president and CEO of OKI Electric Industry, said that just as communications was becoming ubiquitous, so too would security need to be ubiquitous. Such security would be able to adapt to changes and allow for personalization. "Dynamic security control that can react to situation changes is vital," he said.

In the meantime, security is already affecting e-commerce and other online services. In a recent ITU survey, almost two-thirds of respondents reported that they avoid undertaking certain activities online due to a lack of trust.

For those carrying out the incidents, it has gone beyond a hobby and is now a job, according to Verisign's McGowan. "They're offering vulnerabilities over the Web for money," he noted. "The problem is the rate of growth of the Internet and it's a constant fight to keep up."