News — 01 May 2015
Cyber security in the simplest form

Internet security to protect millions of users in developing countries could come in the form of a $35 (approx. €27) system.

A simple computer called the Raspberry Pi could be used to create a firewall that will improve “security hygiene” in the poorest countries says Zubair Nabi, the researcher behind the idea.

According to UN agency, the International Telecommunication Union, an estimated 1,942 million people use the internet in the least developed parts of the world. Considering that a large percentage of people in these countries lack home internet access, they often rely on internet cafés with old computers and slow, unreliable internet connections – which are not equipped to deal with cyber security risks and are infected with viruses, botnets and malware.

While owners of these cafes know there’s a problem, affordability of the antivirus programs plus poor connectivity (making the downloading of such large programs problematic) means the problem’s continued to grow. However by implementing the Raspberry Pi to set up a firewall instead of installing software on regular PCs, aside from the low cost benefits, this system boasts low energy consumption and “can be simply plugged in”.

“You don’t even need to know how it works,” says Zubair, a researcher at IBM Research in Dublin, Ireland, adding that because the Pi have fewer parts than desktop computers, there is also less chance of failure as a result of extreme weather and intermittent power – elements which are common in the developing world.

According to computer experts, the knock-on effect of ‘cleaning-up’ computer hygiene in the poorest parts of the world will be felt in developed countries as well. Robert Mullins, a senior lecturer in the computer laboratory at the University of Cambridge says: “Many of the security problems associated with computers in developing countries can also end up affecting computers in richer countries, so security needs to be improved on a global scale. It is to everyone’s advantage that the security of machines and networks is improved…”

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