Cybersecurity/Trust | Emerging Trends | Infrastructure
June 29, 2016

Are ICTs deserving of our trust?

By Leo Lehmann

To what extent are we willing to trust that data will be used for the purposes expressed by data custodians? How do we decide whether an information and communication technology (ICT) resource performs its function reliably enough to be deserving of our trust? And how are these decisions affected by the level of trust prevailing in the ICT ecosystem, an ecosystem where a technology’s ability to be trustworthy is affected by the degree to which it can trust the other technologies with which it interacts?

These questions will grow in importance as we approach year 2020, the expected arrival of the era of 5G, the Internet of Things (IoT) and Smart Sustainable Cities.

When imagining the possibilities of the 5G era, we speak of seamless connectivity for all the world’s people. We speak of advanced virtual-reality applications; highly automated, connected vehicles; remote medical surgery; and robotics controlled with an imperceptible time-lag. ICTs will add sensory, computing and communications capabilities to physical infrastructure, with Smart Sustainable Cities hosting billions of connected devices, things and objects to create cyber-physical systems capable of adapting their behaviour autonomously in the interests of efficiency.

Technologies are becoming more autonomous in their interaction and decision-making, increasing the gravity of debate around whether ICTs are deserving of our trust.

Taking an example from the IoT family of technologies, should a sensor record a change in the physical environment, the sensor’s virtual counterparts in cyberspace should register that change and react accordingly. Any failure to register a change and react accordingly will lead to a mismatch between physical space and cyberspace, a mismatch that will erode our trust in the ability of cyberspace to support critical real-world functions. Such a mismatch could have calamitous consequences in areas such as automated, connected driving or other safety-critical ICT applications.

New ITU Technical Report on Trust

Trust is highly dynamic, affected by past interactions and associated expectations for the future – the degree of trust in social-cyber-physical space is an accumulated value of the degree of trust present in the vast web of relationships that forms the Information Society.

Quantifying trust in the ICT ecosystem must account for the level of trust between people, people and technology, and technologies themselves, as well as the cumulative, always-evolving effect of interactions in social-cyber-physical space.

If we are to become a ‘Knowledge Society’, where ICTs will assist us in understanding more of our world than we ever have before, building greater trust into the ICT ecosystem will be essential. This ecosystem is always growing in scale and complexity. If we are to quantify and increase the level of trust in the ICT ecosystem, we will need new ways of thinking about the complex web of relationships that gives life to the ICT ecosystem.

How we should go about this is the topic of the new ITU-T Technical Report on “Trust Provisioning for future ICT infrastructures and services”, developed by the ITU standardization expert group for future networks and cloud, ITU-T Study Group 13. The report is essential reading for experts interested in contributing to ITU’s study of trust, a study expected to fuel our standardization work for years to come.

The report describes the importance and necessity of trust in the ICT context, highlighting its relevance to our evolution into a Knowledge Society. It describes the concepts and key features of trust, and following an identification of key challenges and technical issues, the report presents an architectural overview of trusted ICT infrastructures. It goes on to introduce trust-based ICT service models and use cases, and proposes strategies for future standardization on trust. Appendices to the report summarize trust-related activities in other standardization bodies, and provide background information on frameworks for ICT service-model analysis and detailed use cases.

Join our work

Trust informs our investments in our relationships. It is the expectation of reliability that encourages us to share more, collaborate more and build valuable long-term relationships.

There are great returns to be achieved from financial and intellectual investment in the Information Society. The ICT ecosystem is made up of countless productive relationships, where data is constantly being exchanged and people and technologies are constantly communicating and contributing to a growing body of knowledge.

We will see greater benefits from this hyperconnnectivity and growing ICT autonomy and intelligence if we can be assured of a trusted ICT environment.

ITU-T is researching the dynamics of trust in the ICT ecosystem, and we invite you to participate in the second phase of this study to begin with the upcoming ITU workshop on “Future Trust and Knowledge Infrastructure” on 1 July at ITU Headquarters in Geneva.

The workshop on trust is being held in conjunction with a meeting of the ITU standardization expert group for future networks and cloud, ITU-T Study Group 13. The meeting of Study Group 13 runs from 27 June to 8 July, and will analyze more than ten proposals from ITU members on the topic of trust. 


Dr. Leo Lehmann is the Chairman of ITU-T Study Group 13 (Future networks including cloud computing, mobile and next-generation networks), prior to which he served as a Study Group 13 Vice-Chairman and Working Party Co-Chairman since October 2008.
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Are ICTs deserving of our trust?

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