Cyber security has become an imperative. Governments around the world are preoccupied by the possibility of targeted cyber-attacks and they rightly take initiatives to protect their citizens. To illustrate: security was selected as one of the priority topics for the European Commission’s Digital Agenda Assembly 2012 last week in Brussels, and many other events have been organised by government bodies and the private sector.

Concerns about cyber security are justified. If the Internet is to continue to be a driver for much needed productivity growth, it has to be safe. While this conclusion is obvious, developing the right policies to achieve a safer Internet is difficult and cumbersome. Various governments have chosen different avenues ranging from the voluntary recommendations developed in cooperation with industry, to prescriptive regulations, mandating national standards, testing and certification. A choice which has consequences for trade. Some governments overlook the trade-distorting impact of cyber policies. Even worse, others would use cyber security regulations as a tool to engage in protectionism – locking foreign companies out of their market intentionally.

Concerned at the current trends, the global Information Communications Technology (ICT) industry has worked in collaboration to agree a set of guiding principles on cyber security to aid governments in the development of robust and sustainable cyber security policies. DIGITALEUROPE, the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), and Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association (JEITA) have developed and fully endorsed a common set of principles for cyber security policies. These principles point out that policy approaches to advance cyber security must meet security needs while preserving interoperability, openness, and a global market. Industry believes that following these principles will result in enhanced security, and therefore more jobs on a global scale, as outlined McKinsey’s report which found that 2.6 new jobs are generated for each one made redundant by ICT. Further research from the Boston Consulting Group shows that the Internet economy is already contributing 4.1% of GDP ($2.3 trillion in 2010) across the G-20 – thus confirming the importance of ensuring the Internet remains safe.

In contrast, forced transfer of intellectual property could have the reversed effect of preventing foreign technology from being used for the benefit of country. Similarly, any government mandate requiring non-standard specifications, including a preference for domestically made technologies, decrease security as the country concerned is depriving itself to the best available security solutions, which indeed could be developed anywhere in the world.

With the right environment, we can increase security while maintaining societal benefits derived from the growth and development of cyberspace. Industry is united behind a common approach to cyber security and we are committed to actively helping shape cyber security policies; we will remain vigilant in addresing all possible government initiatives that seek to infringe these principles to the detriment of both national interest and global trade. Our hope is that governments will follow the examples laid out be industry and coordinate their efforts rather than individually test the ground and distort international trade, a powerful piston of productivity growth in a time of stagnation.

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