Hamadoun Touré, the Secretary General of the UN's International Telecommunications Union since 1999, says that it's crucial that we start thinking in new terms about cyberspace. If not, he warns, we could face a destructive potential "worse than a tsunami."
While it may sound hyperbolic, it's really not. A large part of our own infrastructure is tied to the Internet, including banking, utilities and energy, and even governmental functions. Y'know, there's also all that rapid communication we perform en masse, too.
In the interest of protecting that, Touré is calling for a cyberspace treaty, or a common code against cyberwar: "My dream is that I would like to have a cyber peace treaty," Touré said. "Some people think it's a sin. People who think they are secure don't want anyone else to talk about it. I say there is no [online] superpower."
"We need to avoid a cyberwar starting," he added. "After the cases of Estonia and Georgia, you need to realise how fragile the world is becoming. A cyberwar will be worse than a tsunami — we have to avoid it."
It's the "industrialized countries" that feel the most safe, the Touré said, without naming names. The damage that can be caused was best demonstrated by the attacks on Estonia — where a series of series of denial-of-service attacks crippled banking and government systems — and on Georgia, which suffered a digital collapse before Russian ground forces invaded. That's not all that could be done, though. Through cyberspace, a team of specialists could, say, tell a piece in a power generator to operate differently, end up overheating the whole thing and, in turn, cause it to explode.
"We're in a new world order today," Touré concludes. "When I see Google and China fight — not China and the US, but a company and a country — it's a new world order. Something new is happening around us: what do we do about it?"