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Cybercrime and poor information security could deter the application of information technologies - especially business use of the Internet - that may help developing countries increase commerce, investment, innovation, productivity, and efficiency, a new UNCTAD report says.
The Information Economy Report 2005 (1) (IER) argues that the world´s poorer nations have to do more than upgrade technology - already a daunting task - to protect against cybercrime and to meet international standards for the security of computerized information. They also have to establish laws that criminalize cyber attacks and enable police to adequately investigate and prosecute such activities. The report further recommends that Governments set up risk-management policies, regularly review security regulations for information and communication technology (ICT), and expand training to ensure that their economies have the human resources needed to establish and maintain effective security programmes. International technical and policy cooperation between industrialized and developing countries should be encouraged and supported, the report says, since all will benefit from better defences against cybercrime.
The overall report focuses on the challenges posed for the world´s poorer nations by accelerating use of the Internet in the conduct of international business and finance. It notes among other things that while 89% of enterprises in European Union countries are connected to the Internet, there are far fewer connected enterprises in developing countries: for instance only 5% of firms in Mauritius and 9% in Thailand. Many other developing countries´ Governments cannot even provide statistics on the topic. Catching up with technologically advanced nations is both important and difficult, the report states - in addition to finding ways to greatly expand Internet access and reduce online costs, developing nations must modernize and bring up to standard their banking, credit and accounting systems so that the online financial transfers and quick deal-making typical of e-business will be possible for domestic companies. It is clear that providing sufficient cyber security is also essential, the report says, since export and outsourcing opportunities increasingly depend on satisfying the security regulations prevailing at export destinations, which are often industrialized countries. Undemanding domestic regulations may cost domestic firms clients and limit growth. And the threat of cybercrime and the losses that could result may shake the confidence of developing-country entrepreneurs - such crimes and information security violations already cause billions of dollars´ worth of damage each year.
Risk-management policies on cyber threats are useful because the limited resources of developing nations should be spent carefully and efficiently, the report says. While cyber security technology may vary in sophistication from country to country, globalized computer networks mean sophisticated cyber attacks may strike anywhere.
Laws and regulations, meanwhile, have to provide effective defences against cybercrime without eroding individual privacy and other human rights. UNCTAD suggests in the report that government policy makers should exchange experiences and establish international modes of cooperation to help in training police, State prosecutors and the judiciary on cybercrime technology, and that they should share experiences on educating the public about data security measures. The report further calls for Governments to set up methods of cooperation with the private sector, including banks, to combat cybercrime.