CTO: The Smallest Nation Can Be Global Cybersecurity’s Weakest Link

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CTO Secretary General Tim Unwin says international governments should do more to recognise the threat of unprotected nations in a connected world

The international community needs to recognise that in a connected age even the smallest unprotected state can represent a significant threat to global cybersecurity, according to Tim Unwin, the Secretary General of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO).

Speaking at the Commonwealth Cybersecurity Forum in London, Unwin said he hoped members, which include private companies like BT, industry bodies such as the GSMA and government, would use the event to share good practices that can be used in effective national policies.

“The most connected, least protected [nation] is the biggest threat,” he told TechWeekEurope. “There’s increasing connectivity across the world but small states that don’t have the capacity to address this can become a huge global threat. If I was intent on doing some nasty stuff, it wouldn’t be too difficult to decide which country I would want to do it in. That is a massive threat.

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CTO Cybersecurity Forum Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (10)“Many Commonwealth countries are small states – that is a really challenging issue. Even if you have one or two people in a small island state who know absolutely everything [about cybersecurity], rolling out a solution isn’t easy. That is an issue that hasn’t been grappled enough by the international community.”

A Commonwealth cybersecurity framework was agreed in 2014 and the CTO plans to help three member nations – Botswana, Cameroon and Uganda – develop an effective cybersecurity strategy while also developing a wider data protection model for governments to draw inspiration from.

“Some people believe in ‘best practice’,” said Unwin. “Anyone who says that wants to impose their best practice on you and charge a lot of money for it. We help countries develop their practice that is most appropriate for them.”

The Secretary General said his own research on things like the dark net had changed his own opinion on the relationship between privacy and security. He had previously held a “libertarian” view on the matter but now thought this was “untenable” given the challenges that companies and governments face from sinister elements on the web.

“One of the things I will be advocating is there needs to be an open, transparent debate in each country. People need to know about the nasty stuff out there and somebody has to address that. If we have an open public debate, rather than governments just saying ‘we are going to do this’, that’s never going to work.

“I’m now pushing for an open debate. Let’s debate this as a society relating to our cultures and societies.”

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