First Published: 2006-03-16

 
Qatar conference urges combat of cyber crime
 

Conference calls for greater coordination to combat what delegates described as rising crime, terror on Internet.

 

Middle East Online

By Taieb Mahjoub - DOHA

Cyber terrorism is difficult to combat

An international telecoms conference closed Wednesday in Qatar with a call for greater coordination to combat what delegates described as rising crime and terror on the Internet.

"There is a possibility of putting in place a memorandum of understanding between member states on the issue of cyber security," Hamadoun Toure, a senior official with the UN's International Telecommunications Union (ITU), said.

He said the issue will be discussed at an upcoming meeting in Geneva with a focus on the legal and political coordination required to combat cyber crime.

"The countries have realised that the problem is serious and that they must work together and pool a lot resources to fight cyber crime and cyber terror," Alexander Ntoko, who heads the ITU's cyber strategy unit, said.

"Technologies are advancing and the cost of operating networks is going down, but it is going down for everyone, including the criminals."

Experts said the Internet has become fertile ground for information theft, industrial espionage, laundering of drug money, illegal arms sales and pedophilia.

Ntoko said tackling the issue of "cyber terrorism" in a coordinated manner across the globe was complicated by concerns of national security in each country.

The Internet has become a favoured tool for terror groups like Al-Qaeda and insurgents in Iraq to post messages and videos.

Ntoko said it was difficult to track down e-mails exchanged by Qaeda members for instance among overall international traffic, of which spam or junk mail accounts for nearly 60 percent, according to another expert.

The ITU co-sponsored the Doha meeting with the Qatari government.

More than 1,500 delegates from 198 countries met for a week to discuss how to connect the entire world with voice and data technologies by the year 2015.

The conference's final declaration said more must be done to bridge the north-south digital divide.

"This is one of the keys to socio-economic prosperity," it said.

Delegates had been expected to come up with concrete measures and a four-year action plan to meet this objective, taking into account resolutions reached at previous telecommunications development meetings in Tunis in November 2005 and in Geneva in December 2003.

But poor countries, especially in Africa, have complained about the reticence of Western governments since the Geneva summit.

A project for example sponsored by Nigeria and other African countries to create a fund that would finance satellite links for medical centres in Burkina Faso and Burundi has attracted a lukewarm reaction from rich governments.

But the ITU's Toure said on Saturday that African nations led by Nigeria and Libya where in the process of launching the first satellite within three months at a cost of 200 million dollars.

The north-south divide is starkly highlighted in ITU figures for 2004 which show that 800,000 villages, representing nearly one billion of the world's population and more than half of which are in Africa, deprived of any voice or data connection.

 

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