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July 23, 2009

ACNIS Convenes a Discussion on “IT Development and the Challenge of Cyber-Security in Armenia”

Yerevan—The Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) held a special roundtable discussion today on “IT Development and the Challenge of Cyber-Security in Armenia,” with three main presentations, by ACNIS Director Richard Giragosian, ACNIS Administrative Director Dr. Karapet Kalenchian and Ashot Turajyan, ACNIS System Administrator and Webmaster.

This event was especially timely and significant, as it followed a series of recent “cyber-attacks,” which disrupted or disabled a number of Armenian websites, including those belonging to the Armenian government, media and private organizations.

Welcoming the participants, ACNIS Director Richard Giragosian explained that the discussion was aimed at drawing attention to the state of IT development and cyber-security in Armenia, which he defined as “a significant aspect of national security that is also directly linked to the future economic development of Armenia.”  He added that the event was the first of a series of activities that ACNIS plans to hold on the issue of IT and cyber-security, including the challenge of the “digital divide” of the country, whereby a large number of Armenians have no regular access to the Internet.  ACNIS also released a new “Analytical Report” examining several aspects of Internet and cyber-security, including the economic, political, commercial and military-security implications of this issue.

Giragosian said that “the strengthening of cyber-security and the fighting of cyber-crime in Armenia represents an effort of strategic importance for the Republic of Armenia,” adding that “the strategic imperative of cyber-security stems from the realities of today’s globalized marketplace, the demands of a new security environment and from the specific needs for ensuring adequate security for the development of the Information Technology (IT) sector.”

According to Giragosian, Armenia also “needs to keep pace with Azerbaijan,” pointing out that “the Azerbaijani government has also been increasingly concerned with the need for enhanced cyber-security and has formed a state Internet Security Council,” and warned that “the Azerbaijani military has expressed an interest in bolstering its own cyber-warfare capabilities.”  He argued that it was “a strategic imperative for Armenia to recognize cyber-security as an urgent priority, in terms of keeping pace with globalization and defending against the new security threats of the 21st century,” and stressed that “more specifically, there are four principal components of Armenian cyber-security: to safeguard and defend national security, to engage and integrate into the globalized marketplace, to develop and expand a knowledge-based economy, and to ensure and modernize military cyber-security.”

Giragosian ended his presentation by stating that “while defining a country’s national security is one of the more basic obligations of a state and the concept of national security is essentially defined by a state’s mission to meet possible threats, both internal and external, this state mission is comprised of three main pillars: to protect its territorial integrity and state borders; to provide security for its population; and to preserve stability, in both political and economic terms.”  He continued by saying that for Armenia, “the challenge of national security, especially in today’s complex environment of multiplying threats, is to ensure that both the definition and defense of national security is a dynamic, not static, process of constant vigilance and preparation.”

“For Armenia,” according to Giragosian, “which is small in both size and population, national security holds an even greater role in the face of the threats of isolation and blockade, and the imperative for cyber-security, therefore, is merely one element of a broader long-term mandate to ensure the viability of Armenia’s overall national security.”

Following Giragosian’s presentation, ACNIS Administrative Director Dr. Karapet Kalenchian offered a presentation on the “Information Security of Social and Political Systems,” addressing the theory of technical, biological and socio-political systems in terms of self-governance, as devised by American scientist Norbert Winner in 1948, which he termed “cybernetics.”  Kalenchian noted that this model studied how information was formed, transferred and codified.

Kalenchian explained that “the main importance of the issue was in society’s right to make a choice and have a chance for getting information, but excluding national secrets and information that contains defense or diplomatic secrets, or material in conflict with the law, for example, such as information related to racism or inter-religious intolerance.”  He concluded by noting that “every person has an inherent right to choose the source of information and if this principle is violated, the country becomes incomplete.”  He also argued that “if two countries, which have equal military, human and economic strength, wage war against each other, the winner is the country whose information security is stronger.”

The closing presentation, “The Level of Development of IT in Armenia,” was by Ashot Turajyan, ACNIS System Administrator and Webmaster, who assessed the price structure for Internet services throughout the country.  His presentation offered a comparative evaluation of the difference in the IT sector both in terms of the region, as well as between Armenia’s urban and rural areas.  Turajyan added that, as one example, “the home internet speed of 1-megabyte is priced at a tariff of 80 dollars in Armenia, leading us to conclude that this tariff concerns only Yerevan as, in the Armenian regions (marzes), having a home internet with such speed is very complicated and too expensive.”

He then addressed the problem of a lack of competition, explaining that “although Armentel (Beeline) is no longer a monopoly in the digital connection sphere, the internet ‘monopolistic’ prices are continuing to pose an obstacle to IT development.”  He also cited the recent “problems from the cyber attack on Arminco Internet provider servers by Arab hackers, in which tens of sites were disrupted, including the Armenian Government website gov.am and various banking sites.”  In those cyber-attacks, Turajyan explained that “the level of sophistication was so serious that the hackers were even able to target other important resources hosted on Arminco web servers.”

Turajyan concluded by stressing that “the most important and urgent problem for Armenia is the protection and security of websites and servers themselves.”  He also proposed that “a new level of preparation and training is needed to withstand this danger as well as to organize some powerful counterattacks to protect Armenia and strengthen cyber-security.”

The event, which was attended by several analysts, experts and journalists, closed with a lively discussion, as many participants expressed their opinions regarding the need for greater attention to the challenge of developing Armenian IT and ensuring cyber-security.

The Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) is a leading independent strategic research center located in Yerevan, Armenia.  As an independent, objective institution committed to conducting professional policy research and analysis, ACNIS strives to raise the level of public debate and seeks to broaden public engagement in the public policy process, as well as fostering greater and more inclusive public knowledge. Founded in 1994, ACNIS is the institutional initiative of Raffi K. Hovannisian, Armenia’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs.  Over the past fifteen years, ACNIS has acquired a prominent reputation as a primary source of professional independent research and analysis covering a wide range of national and international policy issues.

For further information on the Center call (37410) 52-87-80 or 27-48-18; fax (37410) 52-48-46; email root@acnis.am or info@acnis.am; or visit www.acnis.am.

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