Why 2018 Is A Pivotal Point in the Internet’s Development?


In its recently published 2018 Action Plan, the Internet Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the open development, evolution and use of the Internet identified the need for heightened security in the Internet of Things (IoT), for increased safeguards to the Net’s routing system and for more communication between various stakeholders and governments to counter forces that compromise the freedom and safety of the Internet today.

Securing the Internet of Things (IoT)

With the advent of smart gadgets, device connectivity has presented us with a life of convenience, but not without threats that can compromise our privacy and security. The number of devices and systems that make up the Internet of Things (IoT) is expected to reach 20.4 billion by 2020—more than 2.5 times the global population. While the issue of data breaches is well-known, efforts taken to strengthen the security and privacy of consumer IoT are few.

Moreover, even if a person’s identity is not compromised from one source that is being breached, a combination of data points or data triangulation can cause individuals to be easily identified according to isolated pieces of information gathered online. This issue was brought to light during a recent Internet Society workshop titled, “Building Trust in the Age of the Digital Economy.”

The workshop, which was held in Singapore generated insights from discussions around “privacy by design”. One was the need for organisations to have foresight and incorporate privacy safeguards during the early stages of developing IoT products and services.

Privacy enhancing technologies are crucial to ensuring the protection of consumers’ data in a world of interconnected devices, and the need to define what and how data collected will be used was emphasised by participants.

Workshop attendees agreed that the more data a company collects, the more they would have to do to protect each and every piece of data. However, issues will arise when companies fail to spend more on safeguards before they collect data and they end up paying more for troubleshooting and hefty fines should breaches happen.

To secure the Internet of Things, these pre-emptive measures are integral to protect the lifeblood of businesses and the individual profiles they deal with.

Strengthening of the Global Routing System

Alongside the Internet of Things (IoT) lagging behind in security, the Internet’s core is in crucial need of strengthening as well. This means that security must become an integral and formal part of network operations. This can be ensured by adopting norms that mitigate common risks like route hijacking, traffic detouring, and address spoofing—which is a root cause of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks.

The issue becomes more complicated in the face of the US’ repeal on net neutrality rules. The removal of such rules allows for blocking content, throttling and paid prioritisation which can make DDoS attacks harder to detect. Ultimately, the security of the Internet is undermined.

Promoting Collaborative Governance

Due to shifting global forces, changing business models, and emerging issues such as cyber threats, the multistakeholder model of Internet governance is losing traction. This model allows for Internet users to have their say in how the space is governed, and promises decision-making that is accountable, sustainable and effective.

“As is the case with most terms and conditions clauses, users aren’t asked for their inputs. In order to gain access, we have to trade our privacy by ticking the agree boxes.  Stakeholders at our event concluded that if users aren’t given avenues for their voices to be heard on how the Internet should be governed, it will be a case of soft coercion where decisions are made on their behalf”, explained Rajnesh Singh, Regional Bureau Director for Asia-Pacific, Internet Society.

Collaborative governance can be achieved through encouraging governments to adopt the multistakeholder model for their own Internet-related domestic policy and regulatory approaches and ensure they engage industry, civil society, and related stakeholders as they approach Internet governance.

“The nature of the Internet is that there are no geographical boundaries. This means that happenings that occur in one place are bound to affect those in another. Be it a change in law or a cyber breach that compromises people’s data, there will be ripple effects on multiple stakeholders across countries, and therefore the solution has to come from various parties”, added Singh.

The Internet Society hopes to continue working with members, Chapters, and partner organizations to generate critical conversations and inspire actions that drive towards an Internet that is safe, provides opportunities and empowers and values voices of people around the world.