Cyber-attack severity undermines trust & encourages offensive postures - UN Chief

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United Nations
Published at : 17 Jan 2021
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Calling for collective responsibility to face the challenges of nefarious use of digital technology, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres told the fourteenth Internet Governance Forum in Berlin, Germany, that the “growing frequency and severity of cyber-attacks are undermining trust and encouraging States to adopt offensive postures for the hostile use of cyberspace.”

Speaking in Berlin today (26 Nov), Guterres said, “The potential dangers of this demand a much more vigorous collective response.” He added, “We have a collective responsibility to give direction to these technologies so that we maximize benefits and curtail unintended consequences and malicious use, and so far, we have not kept pace,” reiterating that the Internet can be a powerful source for good.

Evoking the fall of the Berlin Wall thirty years ago, the Secretary-General drew parallels on how we today are creating virtual walls on the internet to separate people, cautioning against a growing and profound digital, social and political divide. He further stressed the polarizing effects that can drive people against each other simply by data manipulation that increasingly undermine trust and which demand a much more vigorous global response.

Held from 25 to 29 November, this year’s Internet Governance Forum is bringing together more than 6,000 onsite and remote participants from over 168 countries, making it the largest and most geographically diverse Forum. Representatives from governments, the private sector, civil society, the technical community, and international organizations, gathered under the umbrella theme of ‘One World. One Net. One Vision’ to discuss ways to elevate global cooperation and how to build a safe, stable and secure internet.

With 3.6 billion people in the world without affordable Internet access, and with more than 80 per cent of the population among the world’s 47 least developed countries being offline where the Internet could have a truly transformative impact in their lives, inequalities were a big topic of discussion at the Forum. The Secretary-General stated that connecting all the world’s people by 2030 must be our shared priority, not only for sustainable development but for gender equality, citing that only two per cent of women in Latin America and the Caribbean and in East Asia and the Pacific owned a mobile phone with Internet access.

Guterres recommended ways to elevate the Internet Governance Forum as the foremost global platform where actors could meet to discuss how to address these global challenges: taking up the recommendations from the High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation and announcing that he would soon appoint a technological envoy to work with governments, industry, and civil society to help advance international frameworks.

The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is a multistakeholder discussion platform of the United Nations. It addresses current legal, political, social and technical aspects of the Internet. The participants deal with all aspects related to the question of how the Internet as we know it can be maintained and improved. The issues up for discussion include technical standards, human rights matters, the impact of digital technologies on everyday life and working life, and opportunities arising for economic and social development. The IGF has an advisory function and provides an opportunity for all participants to influence the discussions in the relevant decision-making bodies at national and international level.
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