ASEAN to jointly fight IT security threats

The 10 member countries of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) group will join forces to combat cyber-terrorism and to ensure security of ICT (information and communications technology) networks in the region, the countries announced last Friday.

At the end of the second ASEAN Telecommunication Ministerial Meeting (TELMIN) in Manila last week, the ministers said they would move to set up an ASEAN Network Security Coordinating Council to manage information and network security issues, including the protection of information and communications infrastructures and the prevention of misuse of ICT.

An expert group will be set up to support the council and will focus, among other issues, on the implementation of measures and mechanisms to counter cyber-terrorism, according to the formal Manila Declaration adopted at the meeting.

ASEAN will also move to establish national level computer emergency response teams (CERTs) in all ASEAN countries to help prevent, detect, and resolve security-related incidents on computer networks. It then plans to link these, thus creating an ASEAN-wide CERT structure to strengthen collaboration and mutual assistance in these individual efforts, the declaration said.

Some ASEAN members, such as Singapore, already have national CERTs, but the wide disparity in economic strength and IT awareness between ASEAN countries means that some countries' IT networks are much better protected than others. Earlier this year, Vietnam's authorities found themselves powerless to prevent a series of hacks into government Web sites, even resorting to asking the hackers for help in securing their networks.

To try and narrow the digital divide between developed and less developed ASEAN countries, the group will set up an ASEAN Digital Divide database and set up an ASEAN Center for ICT, the declaration said.

The 10 countries in ASEAN are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.