Why the internet is at risk of becoming fragmented

16 February 2016

Authoritarian nations like Russia, China and Iran want national cyberspaces with everything going through the government. It's being done for local political reasons, not the benefit of their people.

Influential leaders in cybersecurity have come together at ANU to discuss the future of the Internet and the effect of national policy at an international conference.

Conference convener Professor Roger Bradbury believes Western nations need to work together to preserve the freedom of the internet or risk losing it for good.

"The technical issues are tough, but the political issues are even tougher," Professor Bradbury said.

"Authoritarian nations like Russia, China and Iran want national cyberspaces with everything going through the government. It's being done for local political reasons, not the benefit of their people.

"We have great difficulty working with other countries to convince them that it is in the collective human interest to have a trustworthy and open system."

Professor Bradbury has recently conducted computer modelling that shows how easy it would be for the internet to become a fragmented system.

"All it takes is a few decisions by a few countries and you'd get a cascading effect. Once that happens, it's very hard to go back to a free and open internet," he said.

International speaker, Assistant Professor Jon Lindsay of the University of Toronto, will explore cybersecurity in Chinese foreign policy, including international espionage.

"At the G-20 Summit in Turkey leaders of the world's major economies released a landmark communiqué rejecting economic espionage in cyberspace," Assistant Professor Lindsay said.

"China has an elaborate system for covert intelligence collection, coordinated in part through the so-called 863 Plan for high-tech development.

"Chinese technological development is too invested in economic espionage to simply cease and desist."

The Securing our Future in Cyberspace conference was hosted by the ANU National Security College, 15-19 February 2016.