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Sending out a net warning

16 March 2009 Inderscience


A long-overdue internet early warning system for Europe could help the region avoid deliberate or inadvertent outages, reduce the spread of new computer viruses, and ensure continuity of services. So says a report in the International Journal of Electronic Security and Digital Forensics.

Malte Hesse and Norbert Pohlmann of the Institute for Internet Security at the University of Applied Sciences Gelsenkirchen, Germany, point out that there is a growing need to improve the stability and trustworthiness of the internet, whether one is referring to web access, email, instant messaging and file transfer systems.

They add that raising awareness of critical processes and components on the internet among those responsible for their operation is essential. Moreover, there is a need to learn about internet use so that needs and service demands can be best catered for.

The internet is an incredibly diffuse network with no single, centralised control hub. Its complexity is not bounded by geographical, political, administrative or cultural borders, which means it presents an amazing challenge to the global society hoping to make best use of it and avoid criminal and terrorist activity that might occur online.

The internet's strength lies in this decentralised structure, but that also represents a problem in that it is not governed and consists of almost 30,000 autonomous systems each managed by individual organisations mostly within the private sector. The researchers obtained this figure using their AiconViewer tool developed by colleague Stefan Dierichs in 2006. Unfortunately, private organisations are exposed to a high level of competition, especially in times of recession, and this precludes the open exchange of important management information.

Nevertheless, if a European early warning system is to be built there is a need for a shift in attitude. "The cooperation of companies, organisations and governments is important to create a global view of the internet. By that we will be able to detect attacks in time and answer interesting research questions about the internet," the researchers say.

Early warning systems are present in various systems and are a crucial component of effective risk management in enterprises and for national homeland security systems. In order to create a European early warning system, funding has to be provided mainly by public sources in combination with income which can be generated through added value for the private partners, the researchers conclude.


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