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By Richard Pain

06 Jun 11. Cybersecurity has rocketed up the political agenda with the UK identifying it as a tier one threat, with it being prioritised alongside terrorism. Not a week goes by without another cyber incident or the call of impending cybergeddon. It is within this quickly developing field that The East West Institute, (EWI) hosted the Second Worldwide Cybersecurity Summit 2011. Bringing together more than 450 government, industry and technical leaders from 43 countries the summit sought to provide a platform for discussion as well as solutions to pressing cybersecurity issues.

The EWI prides itself on being a global think-and-do tank. More than simply a talk shop, the EWI presents itself as an unofficial channel for policy development and trust-building through Track II diplomacy between the major cyber players, notably the EU, China, Russia and the United States. This is in the face of growing levels of mistrust as rising levels of malicious cyber attacks appear to be emanating from within their territories.

Demonstrating this commitment and building upon the work of the First Worldwide Cybersecurity Summit held in Dallas in May 2010, the EWI has published bilateral reports between US-China and US-Russia indicating commitments from both sides towards increased cooperation on cybersecurity. The first joint US-Russian report to define critical terms for cyber and information security was also achieved. These reports, amongst others, represent the initial first steps towards official policy making between these states and set a precedent for continued progress at the London Summit.

The Cyber Threat

Setting the scene for the two-day conference the speakers began by illustrating the nature of the cyber threat. It was shown that the world’s growing reliance upon information communication technology brings with it opportunities as well as threats. The uptake and reliance upon cyberspace is outpacing efforts to mediate the vulnerability brought with it. This is because agreements, standards, policies, regulations and law enforcement are reactive and lag behind the innovation of malicious computer users.

The recent high profile data breeches in the cases of Sony and Lockheed Martin have underlined vulnerabilities in what were previously viewed as secure and security conscientious organisations. Emphasising the immediate nature of the threat, Gmail announced a data breech by Chinese internet users on the second day of the summit.

New technology and software like social networking and web 2.0 has created new malware. “Companies actually underestimate the threats and quite often they don’t know what the real threats are,” said Natalya Kaspersky of leading anti-virus software provider Kaspersky Lab. “Even when they do, they tend to hide these facts.” Publically announcing security breaches may damage a company’s reputation and share price, but hiding them obscures the extent of the cyber threat.

In spite of this difficultly, the cost of cyber crime to the UK private sector was recently estimated at 21 billion pounds a year. The head of this research and Managing Director of BAE Systems Detica, Martin Sutherland explained that, “As our dependency on cyberspace grows, so does our need to be able to share information and act as a more united force against the cyber threat.”

The Need for International Cooperation

In response to cyber threats EWI President John Mroz, encapsulating the theme of the summit explained, “Cyber challenges are by definition global and therefore require a global approach.” The key to this is building trust in the interest of fostering cooperation, the kind of cooperation that produces concrete solutions. “As we make progress in these relationships, we should face up to the fact that at both the national and international levels, there is a worrisome trust deficit between us … that is across professional disciplines … bus

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