Internet safety calls for global cooperation

English.news.cn   2010-09-12 11:17:46 FeedbackPrintRSS

 (Source: China Daily)

by Zhang Xiaojun, Liu Zan

BEIJING, Sept. 12 (Xinhua) -- Why would somebody hack us? The reason is simple: our information is valuable while Internet protection is vulnerable.

The rapid growth of Internet use creates unpredictable potential for its future development. In China alone, the number of Internet users hit 420 million in June. In the U.S., Facebook, a popular social networking website established around 2004, has registered more than 350 million active users around the world. More than 2 billion photos and 14 million videos are uploaded onto Facebook each month while lots of other private information flows into the public domain.

Hackers and criminals are looking to obtain illegal profits from the rich online resources. In China, about 60 percent Internet users experienced virus or trojan attacks during the first half of 2010. More than 30 percent of China's netizens had their online accounts or passwords stolen. Britain also claims that cyber crime costs its economy billions of pounds every year.

Unfortunately, the fragile Internet safety makes the criminals' online lives easy. Gary McKinnon, whose online name is Solo, is a Glasgow-born hacker. Without too much effort, he hacked into 97 United States military and NASA computers over a 13-month period between February 2001 and March 2002. The U.S. authorities claim that the cost of tracking and correcting the problems McKinnon caused was 800,000 U.S. dollars.

Commenting on the current situation of Internet safety, Cai Mingzhao, former deputy head of China's State Council Information Office, said, "Internet security should be put in a prominent position. If network security is not guaranteed, it will do great harm to the real society."

Global cooperation is urgently required to keep the Internet safe. There are, at least, two key factors behind successful global cooperation. Firstly, all stakeholders, including the public sector, the private sector and netizens, should fulfill their online responsibilities. Secondly, all stakeholders should work together efficiently and effectively to address such long-term issues as the establishment of a global online regulation mechanism.

Public and private sectors are the main forces against online criminals. For instance, the Singaporean government invested more than 23 million dollars to implement a three-year information technology project, Infocomm Security Masterplan, which is designed to protect the government and businesses from hacker attacks. Similar and even larger investments, which are usually far beyond the input scale by the civil society organizations, have been seen from public and private sectors in recent years.

Netizens as the other key player should protect themselves first. People tend to share their entire lives in social networks and sometimes do not understand the privacy settings on websites. So when cyber criminals want to take information, they often find the information they need readily available. We need to think more about the information we post online.

Global online regulation mechanism is a "must" for punishing cross-border online criminals. WikiLeaks, an online whistleblower, published thousands of secret files of the U.S. government. Though there are arguments about whether the executives of WikiLeaks are criminals, the U.S. government angrily denounced the leaks, saying they put the lives of Afghan informants and U.S. troops at risk.

However, the U.S. government has no independent power to prevent the release of the secret documents because WikiLeaks' servers are in Sweden, where the law protects whistleblowers. China faces similar difficulties in efforts to crack down on illegal online gambles and porn websites as the criminals often set up their websites abroad to escape punishment.

On the Internet, the bad guys are thriving and we, the good guys, must join hands to ensure staying ahead of them.

Editor: Lu Hui
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