Looking Forward, Looking Back: Threats to Trust, Confidence and Security on the Internet
Posted: 29 Mar 2015
Date Written: March 28, 2015
The year 2014 marked the 50th anniversary of Paul Baran’s work on Packet Switched Networks, the 25th anniversary of Tim Berners-Lee’s original paper outlining the concept of the World Wide Web and the 20th anniversary of the commercialization of the Internet. The positive socio-economic benefits derived from the Internet and the World Wide Web have been enormous and are well documented. The negative developments and Net-Threats (e.g. Malware, Cyber-fraud, Cyber-crime, loss of Trust and Confidence in the Internet as a platform for commercial transactions) need to be studied more carefully and understood better, so that practical and workable remedial measures can be proposed.
Today we have near-universal availability of the Internet, with almost 3 billion users in some 200 countries worldwide. Also over the last decade the use of the increasingly intelligent mobile phone has exploded and it has become the most widely used communications device in the world.. The number of mobile-cellular subscriptions worldwide, estimated by the International Telecommunications Union at around 7 billion by the end of 2014, is approaching the number of people on earth. The mobile phone is the telecommunications access device of choice in the developing world, and often the only available device for accessing the Internet and its associated services.
As high-speed mobile Internet access becomes more readily available and affordable, smart phones and other more intelligent mobile devices with greater functionalities (e.g. tablet computers, laptops) are being used widely for business applications as well as for personal and social purposes, potentially creating more billions of mobile Internet users. These new mobile Internet users are likely to become an additional major target for Net-Threats like malware, cyber-fraud and cyber-crime.
In this paper the authors show that every economy requires a physical, institutional and legal infrastructure, as well as understandable and enforceable marketplace rules, in order to function smoothly. Although the Internet has transformed the economy, society and politics, it was never designed and built for global, ubiquitous and secure commercial use. While the technology is new, for commercial use the need for trust, confidence and security remains. One characteristic of the public Internet is that since it consists of many thousands of autonomous networks spanning a large number of jurisdictions, it has no well-defined oversight mechanism that can administer sanctions or enforce rules of behavior. In this it is historically unique, when compared to other transportation and communications networks (e.g. railways, airlines, postal systems, telegraph and telephone networks). The openness, anonymity and decentralized control which are the Internet’s great strength for freedom of expression, creativity and information sharing also become its weakness for commercial use.
The authors show that the building of an appropriate institutional and legal infrastructure for the global digital marketplace, as well as commonly accepted, understandable and enforceable marketplace rules which provide trust and confidence for all those who operate in or are affected by it, is a necessary condition for the efficient functioning of a global, digital economy. For the Internet to achieve its maximum economic, social and political potential there will have to be agreed upon and effective “rules of the road”, both nationally and globally. Drawing upon the lessons of history and historical analogies, the paper explores some possible solutions.
Keywords: Internet, Malware, Cyber-crime, Cyber-security
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