The ITU, as requested by the international community through the UN World Summit on the Information Society, has taken as a core principle of its mandate the need to build confidence and security in the use of ICTs. Information and communication technology may have changed since the advent of the telegraph, but the mission of ITU to “Connect the World” in a safe and secure manner has not.

145 years ago the ITU was established to deal with the challenges and opportunities of what was the very beginning of the information age. Today, ICTs have become an essential part of human development. Management and provision of water supplies, power grids, food distribution chains, transportation, and navigation systems depend upon ICTs.

Industrial processes and supply chains are underpinned by ICTs in order to render services more efficient as well as to support building capacity on their effective use.

The essence of the challenge of cybersecurity is that Internet and global ICT were never designed with security in mind. The cyber environment of today is significantly different from 60 years ago and in continuously challenging many of the
traditional approaches to security, requiring more and more holistic and innovative solutions. One thing, however is certain: cybersecurity is a global issue that can only be addressed globally.

As the leading UN agency for ICTs, the ITU plays a pivotal role in facilitating this global cooperation, and together with governments, the private sector, civil society, and international organizations, can expedite the process of achieving a global cybersecurity culture, through:
Facilitating the harmonization of frameworks at national, regional, and international levels;
Providing a platform to discuss and agree on technical mechanisms, to be used to mitigate the risks posed by misuse of ICTs;
Assisting Member States in establishing those organizational structures needed to respond proactively to cyber-threats, triggering coordination and cooperation with all stakeholders at national and international levels;
Promoting the importance of building capacity and international cooperation as key elements for countries to follow-up in order to acquire competence and expertise toward achieving a cybersecurity culture at national, regional and global level.

In May 2011, the first step in this direction was taken as the ITU and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to collaborate globally in assisting Member States to mitigate the risks posed by cybercrime with the objective of ensuring secure use of ICTs. It is the first time that two organizations within the UN system have formally agreed to cooperate at the global level in regards to cybersecurity.

In June 2017, ITU entered in a similar agreement with INTERPOL, following the same approach of pulling resources in order to help the respective communities.

The ITU has realized the importance of decentralizing and distributing efforts, empowering those organizations and entities that possess that specific knowledge and expertise required to provide proper assistance not only to the ITU Membership, but to the community as a whole.

Establishing global cybersecurity may be a complex, multifaceted, and challenging task, but if we act as one, the benefits gained from our information society may provide humanity with the best chance it has ever had for sustainable peace, security, and development.

Marco Obiso | Cybersecurity Coordinator, International Telecommunications Union (UN-Geneva)

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