Net hygiene a private sector concern

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Former spy agency CIO says international coordination needed to curb cybercrime.

Businesses should assume responsibility of blocking malicious internet traffic, says a former US spy agency chief information officer.

Former National Security Agency chief information and technology officer Prescott Winter praised internet service provider initiatives such as Australia’s iCode, saying they were crucial to improve cybersecurity.

“There is an enormous need for better structure and better processes,” Dr Winter said.

“Ultimately, these are private sector assets; these are private sector pipes.”

Comparing the internet to the aviation industry, he highlighted a need for national and international regulations and embargoes, such as those managed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

ISPs could agree to block data packets from certain domains in a similar way to how offline trade embargoes functioned, he suggested.

“Nobody keeps out packets that aren’t safe,” he said. “You can put up fences against this stuff.”

Dr Winter brushed off fears about censorship and government interference: “Governments are going to do what they have to do in times of crisis, anyhow”.

He fingered China as the source of much corporate intellectual property theft, highlighting cyberattacks on Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals last year.

Internet address blocks in Belarus, Nigeria, Bulgaria and Romania could also be blocked to curb the spread of malware, he suggested.

Dr Winter, the public sector chief technology officer of HP subsidiary ArcSight, called for the establishment of an international authority to coordinate online security efforts on a global level. Even the United Nations could have a co-ordinating role, he said.

He said Australia was leading the way in combating cybercrime on a national level with the iCode, which was introduced by the Internet Industry Association in December and involved 18 ISPs and 80 percent of Australian users.

“Ultimately, it’s in everyone’s interest to improve the basic hygiene of the internet,” he said.

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