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Network outage at World Conference on International Telecommunications

by david.nunes

Network outage at World Conference on International Telecommunications

Disruption reinforces importance of cybersecurity

Dubai, 6 December, 2012 – Communication with one of the ITU websites was interrupted on late Wednesday afternoon, December 5, interfering with external access to the main ITU site and disrupting the late meeting of Working Group 1 of Committee 5, the substantive working committee of the WCIT-12 conference.

As a contingency measure, network traffic was redirected to a backup website hosted in another geographical region. ITU has noted a significant increase in network traffic generated by the worldwide attention around WCIT-12, and in particular, the public interest in conference documents and webcasts of conference proceedings. Some performance degradation was experienced for two hours before normal operation was restored.

The incident blocked civil society, media and other interested parties from following the proceedings, and prevented access to the wealth of online information on the ITU’s WCIT home page and Newsroom. Some delegates were frustrated at being unable to access some of the online working documents that were being considered by the meeting. However, a spirit of camaraderie prevailed, with those who had access to up-to-date online versions of the texts willingly sharing with other delegates in order to keep discussions moving forward. Some hacker groups are claiming responsibility.

In line with ITU’s commitment to environmental responsibility, WCIT-12 is a paperless conference, with delegates able to access the updated versions of all texts via an online platform. The decision to dispense with six-language paper copies of the hundreds of proposals up for discussion is saving an estimated 250,000kg of CO2 equivalent emissions. While further technical measures have been put in place today to ensure the online system continues to function, the conference can revert to paper processing if necessary, to ensure discussions proceed according to the tight timetable set for negotiation of the new treaty.

WCIT-12 conference is being held to renegotiate the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), a binding global treaty that facilitates global interconnection and interoperability of information and communication services. Some 2,000 delegates and over 100 local and international press are working on the event at the Dubai World Trade Centre, which is taking place from 3-14 December. Up to 2,000 people per session are following the live and archived multilingual webcasts of the event, with an additional estimated Twitter exposure of over 35 million people via the WCIT hashtags by the start of the conference.

ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Touré said threats made against the conference by cyber criminal groups fly in the face of the principles of freedom of expression and unfettered access to information that the WCIT-12 conference has been at pains to defend. “It is ironic that the very people who claim to be fighting for a free Internet are preventing those around the world trying to follow the event online from getting access. Do they believe in one rule for them, and one for everyone else?”

A full English transcript derived from the simultaneous captioning in the meeting rooms is available for all Plenary and Committee 5 sessions at: www.itu.int/en/wcit-12/Pages/captioning.aspx.

Live and archived multilingual webcasts of the WCIT-12 opening ceremony, opening press conference and all meetings of the conference Plenary and Committee 5 over the coming two weeks are available at: www.itu.int/en/wcit-12/Pages/webcast.aspx

ITU is hosting a daily media briefing with the ITU Secretary-General and other key officials recapping each day’s discussions. These briefings will take place at 18:00 local Dubai time, accessible on any computer via the Adobe Connect platform at: http://itu.adobeconnect.com/wcit2012/

Speeches, daily meeting schedules and other information can be found on the main WCIT-12 Newsroom at: www.itu.int/en/wcit-12/Pages/newsroom.aspx

A FAQ, a comprehensive set of Background Briefs covering the main discussion topics and a WCIT Myth Buster presentation can be found at: www.itu.int/en/wcit-12/Pages/WCIT-backgroundbriefs.aspx

View videos from the meeting and download broadcast quality video footage at: www.itu.int/en/newsroom/Pages/videos.aspx

Photos from the meeting can be downloaded at: www.flickr.com/photos/itupictures/sets/72157632073685626/

The main conference preparatory documents can be found at: www.itu.int/en/wcit-12/Pages/documents.aspx

The current ITRs can be found at: www.itu.int/oth/T3F01000001

About ITU

ITU is the leading United Nations agency for information and communication technology. For over 145 years, ITU has coordinated the shared global use of the radio spectrum, promoted international cooperation in assigning satellite orbits, worked to improve communication infrastructure in the developing world, and established the worldwide standards that foster seamless interconnection of a vast range of communications systems. From broadband networks to new-generation wireless technologies, aeronautical and maritime navigation, radio astronomy, satellite-based meteorology and converging fixed-mobile phone, Internet and broadcasting technologies, ITU is committed to connecting the world. www.itu.int


ITU is unique within the UN family in having some 700 Sector Members (mainly from the private sector) in addition to 193 Member States. All have been actively engaged in the WCIT-12 preparatory process, which has been underway for some years. In addition, ITU set up a public consultation website open to all stakeholders in six languages (total of 31 submissions received between 15 August-7 November, of which 29 published [and 2 rejected because of unauthorized hyperlinks]). ITU has also held four global briefings (supporting remote participation from anywhere around the world) open to media, analysts and civil society: those held using Adobe Connect are archived at: http://www.itu.int/en/wcit-12/Pages/media-briefings.aspx.

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