Major cyberterrorism meeting scheduled

International partnership against cyberterrorism to convene next week

A meeting next week in Malaysia being billed as the largest minister-level summit ever held on cyberterrorism will kick off an international partnership of more than 30 countries to study and respond to high-level cybersecurity threats.

The International Multilateral Partnership Against Cyber-Terrorism (IMPACT) is the brainchild of the prime minister of Malaysia, who saw the need for such an organization during the World Congress of Information Technology in Texas in 2005. Funded by a $30 million startup grant from Malaysia, the organization will hold a World Cyber Security Summit next week in conjunction with the WCIT in Kuala Lumpur.

More than 40 countries have been invited to attend, including Australia, Canada, India, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and the United States.

'We still have not received confirmation of which agency will represent the U.S. government,' IMPACT Chairman Mohd Noor Amin said in a conference call announcing the formation of the group.

Amin said President Bush was one of the first world leaders informed of the creation of the organization and that the president was supportive and offered U.S. support.

Although the organization has not yet established a formal membership, its advisory board includes representatives from companies including Symantec, Trend Micro and Kaspersky Labs, in addition to former presidential adviser Howard Schmidt and Internet guru Vint Cerf.

A cooperative international approach to cyberthreats is essential because the threats themselves often are multi- or extra-national. 'Typically, governments have approached cybersecurity as a domestic policy issue,' Amin said.

The U.S. National Strategy to Secure Cyber Space, multiple public-private partnerships and regional gatherings such as the G8 meetings are all helpful but inadequate, Schmidt said.

'This gives us a much broader perspective,' he said. 'Just having North America or a European country doing their part to secure themselves does not make the world a more secure place.'

IMPACT's focus will be on cyberterrorism rather than on the entire range of online crime and hacking activities.

'The term cyberterrorism means different things to different people,' Amin said. IMPACT will be focusing on what he called the upper end of cyberthreats, those with the potential or intention of causing significant damage, either economically or to life and limb ' events that rise to the level of immediate security concerns for governments.

Among the countries that will be participating in the inaugural meeting are China and Russia, two nations that have posed cyberthreats to the United States. Russia apparently has been home to organized rings involved in the online theft of personally identifiable information used in identity theft, and China has been identified as a source of persistent attempts to breach U.S. information systems. China is believed to be pursuing a cyberwarfare capability.

Amin said all governments have a vested interest in a secure cyberspace, and he expects a high level of international cooperation.

Among the initial goals of IMPACT will be the establishment of a global response center and an early-warning system to monitor worldwide online activity to identify emerging threats. Much of the organization's initial funding has gone into setting up the physical facilities for these systems, Amin said.

The global response center will be modeled after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Amin said a number of government organizations and companies with large-scale network monitoring capabilities have agreed to feed the early-warning system.

'We have a good aggregated view of the global cyberlandscape,' he said.

One of the chief jobs of member countries and organizations will be to identify the global resources and skills needed to address cyber incidents before they occur. IMPACT aims eventually to expand into providing governments with critical services such as disaster recovery facilities.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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