The wireless world is expanding. According to the Geneva-based International Telecommunications Union, in 2011 mobile cellular subscriptions totalled 5.9 billion and resulted in global penetration reaching 87%, and 79% in the developing world.

Mobile broadband subscriptions have grown 45% annually over the past four years and today there are twice as many mobile broadband subscriptions as fixed broadband subscriptions. The average number of mobile phones per person exceeds 1.5. Next year mobile computing devices are expected to overtake the personal computer as the most common means for accessing the internet worldwide.

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Europe leads in broadband connectivity, with fixed and mobile broadband penetration reaching 26% and 54%, respectively.

fDi identifies the software and information and communications technology (ICT) industries as the leading sector for global FDI projects with communications accounting for 80.5% of projects within the sector. Project volume in this sector peaked during 2011, with 209 projects tracked. The sector created 33,935 jobs in 2011, with $64.44bn spent. 

The US generated the highest number of total jobs (10,881) and investment ($22.06bn). Mexico, which is ranked ninth among countries for overall projects, had the largest project size on average in terms of both investment and jobs created. Overall, fDi identifies the top five global hot-spots for ICT projects as London, Tokyo, Madrid, Amsterdam and Paris. The top destination countries for investment are the UK, Brazil, Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Global investments

Examples of company investments span the globe. One is Savvis, a CenturyLink company involved in cloud infrastructure and hosted IT solutions for enterprises. Savvis is opening data centres this year in Singapore and London, and expanding operations in California, Washington, DC, Texas and New Jersey. This brings its total to more than 50 data centres throughout North America, Europe and Asia. Its goal, according to company executives, is to increase its global footprint in response to growing market demand for its enterprise cloud, managed hosting, network and co-location services. 

Telekom Malaysia (TM) of Kuala Lumpur is investing in its first regional data centre in Hong Kong. Located in Kowloon Bay, the data centre is expected to meet the increased demand for cloud-based services via its ICT arm, VADS. “This country has a strategic capability that attracts most of the multinational companies and foreign carriers to set up and expand their business in the Asia-Pacific,” says TM CEO Zamzamzairani Mohd Isa. “Nobody can deny that Hong Kong is an established business hub in this region.”

This year, Netherlands-based Interxion – a European provider of premium carrier-neutral collocation, cloud and data centre services – announced the building of its second data centre in Madrid. Called MAD2, the new centre will be adjacent to Interxion’s existing data centre in Madrid’s Silicon Alley.

“This new build is in response to a strong and growing pipeline of demand in the Madrid metropolitan area from high-power application providers, including cloud services, digital media, and other connectivity-driven IT services,” says David Ruberg, the CEO of Interxion. It is a two-phase development and the first phase is expected to be operational by the first quarter of 2013.

Cyber espionage schemes

With the proliferation of mobile device usage comes a critical need in another segment of the ICT business: network forensics – the business of monitoring and analysing computer network traffic for information gathering, legal evidence or intrusion detection. That is because the ever-present threat of cyber attacks is becoming more prevalent.

Consider Operation Shady RAT (remote access tool), a cyber espionage campaign and intellectual property bonanza that began in mid-2006, and infiltrated more than 72 victims in 14 countries, including the computer systems of national governments, defence contractors, global corporations, the United Nations, and even the International Olympic Committee.

“Once it was detected, people realised they had lost significant amounts of information,” says Chet Hosmer, chief scientist at WetStone Technologies, a global provider of innovative cyber security solutions.

Of particular concern was that Operation Shady RAT proved that companies and countries that are under attack are losing an unprecedented transfer of wealth in the form of trade secrets and intellectual property, primarily from Western organisations and companies. Worse, these countries are losing their economic advantage to competitors in other parts of the world overnight. While no one has verified the source of Shady RAT, the general consensus is that it originated in China.

More recent cyber attacks include Operation Aurora, which attacked Google and many other companies in 2010, and Flame – or Flamer, sKyWIper or Skywiper – which has recently been uncovered and attacks computers running the Microsoft Windows operating system.

Security measures

While it is difficult to calculate how many businesses are now offering network forensics, this segment of ICT is flourishing due to the escalating network viruses and worms and threats, including botnets, keyloggers, anti-forensic wireless hacking tools, rootkits and steganography.

Network forensic firms are also crossing national borders. An example of this is provided by WetStone Technologies. Two years ago this Cortland, New York-based developer of custom security software solutions for individuals investigating crimes against children, malicious code and live volatile acquisitions joined forces with the National Forensics Institute (NFI) in the Netherlands to expand international cyber security co-operation, innovation and awareness.

“In developing forensic technology, the NFI now not only targets the academic world, but increasingly focuses on public-private collaboration with national and international technology firms,” says Dr Tjark Tjin-a-Tsoi, the CEO of NFI. “The know-how of these companies can stimulate the further development of forensic technology and products.”

NFI also signed memoranda of understandings with Microsoft, the Korean National Institute of Scientific Investigation, and Riken, a Japanese research institute.

Universities worldwide are jumping on the bandwagon to offer network forensics training. Just recently, Scotland’s Edinburgh Napier University and Ireland’s Institute of Technology Blanchardstown introduced Masters of Science programmes in the subject. 

Staff shortage

Meanwhile, groups around the world are expressing concern over a shortage of trained professionals in the ICT industry. A report by the Dutch industry association ICT-Office, for example, predicts that despite the economic recession, there will be a shortage of about 6300 ICT employees in the country by 2016. If the economy improves after 2013, the shortage could rise to 11,000.

Similarly, Canada’s Information and Communications Technology Council warns of a looming shortage of ICT professionals in that country. It states that Canadian firms will need to recruit about 106,000 new workers for ICT positions between the 2011 and 2016.

A shortage of professionals in the network forensics segment of ICT would leave criminals and terrorists at a distinct advantage. “Where it becomes really dicey is the cyber attacks we will see in the future will be on private infrastructures that governments rely on – not necessarily on government infrastructures that may be better protected,” says Mr Hosmer.

The question then becomes, is there enough back-up and resiliency for countries to continue to operate if attacked in that way? That question takes ICT to another level.