President of Republic of Bulgaria keynote speech

8 September 2003

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am happy to welcome the participants in this international Conference dedicated to regional cooperation in cyber security.

The fact of holding this conference in Bulgaria testifies to the depth of the changes my country has undergone in recent years. I could not but mention that a mere 12-13 years ago, at the dawn of the Internet, Bulgaria was known rather with the “dark avenger”, the first internationally notorious author of the virus. I am sure, however, that the time of this Bulgarian notoriety is gone forever.

Today, in the light of the new realities and the major new threat to security not only of the citizens but of the very functioning of the national economies, each state’s contribution to combating cyber terrorism becomes particularly important. Evidence of this is the participation of representatives of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe in this conference.

There is no country that, in the age of cyber terrorism, can remain indifferent or rely, as earlier, on nature or geography to protect it again malicious acts. Besides bringing people closer, the Internet has eliminated distances and differences while placing at the hands of criminals a very powerful means of organized acts. It is only through the joint actions of governments and citizens that a reliable shield against cyber crime can be built.

This conference is for me such a manifestation of concerted actions. It is the result of the joint efforts of the NGOs, represented by the Public Council on IT with the President and the Government. Clearly it could not have materialized without the substantial support, including financial, of the US State Department and the United States International Development Agency, through Internews, for which I thank them, and of course all other factors involved in organizing and holding this forum.

I am happy to note the participation of some very prominent personalities in the Council on IT with the President such as Mr. Vinton G. Cerf, known as one of the fathers of Internet, Mr. George Sadowsky, who is here, among us, Donald Heath, Esther Dyson, Richard Delmas from the European Commission, to mention only a few. Their involvement in the work of the above Council is a sound testimony of our firm intentions to promote the information society in our country.

I would also like to point out the very good coordination between the Council, on the one hand and the ministers of the state administration, education, the parliamentary committee on transport and telecommunications and a number of other organizations.

We are aware, ladies and gentlemen, that we have to meet the challenges of cyber terrorism. They demand a much greater potential than the one we have in this country and I believe this is a realization that other countries have also made.

I can say with a sense of pride that our school and university students continue the tradition of coming out as winners at international Olympics in Mathematics and Informatics. The number of regular Internet users in Bulgaria is growing all the time, having covered at the moment around 16 per cent of all citizens, mostly the young. The Internet clubs are a favorite place for children. The building of an infrastructure among the Internet operators allows for an exchange of information at a speed of Gbps.

We are not less successful in building the legislative framework for fighting computer crimes. I wish to pay special attention to this fact.

The ratification of the European Convention on Cyber Crimes is forthcoming. Meanwhile, the Bulgarian Parliament adopted last year an entirely new chapter in the Criminal Code dedicated exclusively to the fight against computer crimes.

All this gives us grounds to hope that as a result of this conference and, of course, thanks to the governments of Bulgaria, the USA and the countries of Southeast Europe we will be able to support and implement the idea of the Internet Society and the IT Development Association to establish a permanent Regional Cybersecurity Cooperation Center.

As it was already presented in the media the initiators of this center have conceived it as a non-governmental organization that is to work for preventing and minimizing the risk of cyber crimes. The Center will be training representatives from the countries of Southeast Europe, judges, prosecutors, investigating magistrates and policemen in the general and special problems of the European law enforcement practices in fighting computer crimes. The Center will also conduct research and develop projects designed to give early warning about the appearance of new cyber threats, viruses, possible hacker attacks, etc. The early warning of a new virus could reduce substantially the cost of overcoming the effects of its harmful actions.

This question has become especially relevant after the appearance in recent days of the new malicious computer viruses.

The losses from delays in locating the new computer viruses and the creation of software to destroy them are running into billions of dollars. You know this better than I do. These are resources that could be put to better use for improving the computer infrastructure and its better protection.

Our aim is to use the resources of Bulgaria and the countries of Southeast Europe which have a long history in school training of software and informatics experts in order to contribute to the global fight with cyber crime.

Clearly, governments cannot act alone in this fight. We rely a great deal on our work with the non-governmental sector, the private businesses, the outside institutions, including universities and the institutes in the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

We shall rely on the joint actions of Bulgarian and US coordinators at our meeting to foster and use these contacts for improving cyber security in the region.

Ladies and gentlemen, developments have often been steered by the acts of an individual who happened to be in the right place at the right time. The beginning of the new century is precisely such a juncture. I can see Southeast Europe as a place where we could open a new page of cooperation among the countries represented here today. The invisible danger we are facing knows no borders. This is why it is important to be united and act in close cooperation with our partners from NATO and the European Union.

No nation can cope single-handed with cyber crime. Computer crimes create problems of applying the international law. They call for a global approach and solutions.

Hopefully a kind of a plan for action will ensue as a result from this conference so that in the coming months adequate changes can be proposed to the national legislations of all participating states.

As I said earlier on, Bulgaria has made major steps in this direction. However we are aware of what remains to be done. We know that the hard section of the road lies ahead of us. There is no time to lose. We must act here, now and together!

I wish you fruitful work and every success!