South Africa’s Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA) announced today (3 May 2011) that it would lead the development of a new voluntary code of practice to improve cyber security for end-users.
Known as the ‘icode’, and developed in conjunction with Australia’s Internet Industry Association, the code will provide a consistent approach for South African ISPs to help inform, educate and protect their customers in relation to cyber security.
South Africa would become the second country in the world to implement network-level protection of vulnerable end-users under the icode banner.
By following the code, ISPs will contribute to reducing the number of compromised computers in South Africa and enhance the overall security of the South African and international Internet.
“The increasing threat of zombied computers – computers which have been essentially hijacked and are under the control of criminals or other third parties – presents a real risk to users. Identity theft, fraud, and increases in spam are all possible consequences of compromised computers,” said ISPA spokesperson, Ant Brooks.
“The problem we now face as an industry is the sophistication of attacks on end-user computers. Scanning at the network level by ISPs can provide an early warning to users when the user may be completely unaware there’s a problem with their computer.”
“An infected computer is not only bad for the end-user, it’s also a problem for the integrity of networks themselves because it increases the amount of spam and other “bad traffic”. This is why ISPs are telling us they will support the scheme.”
The icode is expected to contain four main elements:
- A notification/management system for compromised computers;
- A standardised information resource for end-users;
- A comprehensive resource for ISPs to access the latest threat information;
- A reporting mechanism in cases of extreme threat, back to national security agencies to facilitate a national high-level view of attack status.
ISPA icode welcomed
Australia’s Internet Industry Association chairman, Bruce Linn welcomed the announcement. “The Australian experience has shown that end-users appreciate knowing that their ISP is watching for signs of infection on the network,” he said.
“Most users are initially very surprised to find out that their machine may be infected by ‘malware’ such as viruses. But they are relieved when they are given the information and tools to restore their computer’s security,” continued Linn.
The initiative was also welcomed by the banking sector. “South Africa’s banks are committed to educating consumers about online security, and constantly review security measures to offer South African Internet users as safe an online banking experience as possible,” said Mrs Kalyani Pillay, CEO of the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC).
“SABRIC welcomes the launch of the icode project, and is encouraged by the commitment of ISPs towards assisting their customers with the security of their computers and their personal information,” she concluded.
Privacy a paramount concern
ISPA’s Brooks emphasised that the new code was designed to protect the privacy of end-users.
“The network level scanning that allows ISPs to detect signs of infected machines does not in any way involve looking at what users are themselves doing online. On the contrary, the scheme is designed to reduce the incidence of the single biggest threat to end-user privacy – the presence of malware which can steal personal information and relay it to criminals overseas,” said Brooks.
The code is designed to respond to this challenge by providing a consistent approach for South African ISPs to help inform, educate and protect their customers in relation to cyber security.
ISPA believes a uniform national (and international) approach is warranted. The code will deliver a standard set of best practices for ISPs to follow to preserve the integrity of their networks.