War in Iraq could cripple Internet: IDC

Online security should be the No. 1 concern of business in the coming year because of the threat of a war in Iraq, according to the head of research for IDC.

“”There will be a major cyber-terrorism event in 2003,”” John Gantz, said Thursday

during the company’s annual worldwide information technology forecast for the next year.

“”It will be enough to disrupt the economy for a while, bring the Internet to its knees for a day or two.””

A war in Iraq “”will galvanize”” hackers in terrorist ranks, he said. One person has already threatened to unleash a “”mega-virus”” if there is war, he said.

The blueprint for such attacks is the denial-of-service assaults on the Internet’s 13 root servers in October, he said, although it only caused the Net to slow down.

Still, he said the “”opportunity for some sort of electronic disturbance of online transactions could happen pretty easily.””

You might want to wait, however, before buying a bio-suit and digging a bomb shelter. Gantz acknowledged that IDC’s track record isn’t perfect. Last year it predicted the IT sector would rebound in the second quarter, that Linux would have “”a breakout year”” (in his defence, Gantz said sales of Linux hardware did do well) and that there would be major use of digital ID like Microsoft’s Passport.

Asked if security therefore should be businesses’ No. 1 priority, Gantz said “”probably, yes.””

But he added that surveys of CEOs and CIOs have shown security has been their primary worry for the past three years.

That’s mainly the reason why spending on security-related software (which includes anti-virus, intrusion detection, disaster recovery and associated applications) is the fastest-growing area of information technology, he said.

IDC believes the outlook for the global economy is “”kind of mixed,”” said Kevin White, research manager for IT markets and strategies. While business investment in the U.S. has picked up in the last quarter, Western Europe continues to struggle and there’s doubt recovery in Japan is sustainable.

Other predictions:

* Spending in the information, technology and telecommunications market worldwide will hit US$1.9 trillion, with about six per cent growth. Much of that growth will be due to spending on hardware (mainly storage, networking and servers) and wireless services;

* Sales of mid-range servers will rebound from a 20 per cent drop last year to positive growth due to their increasing power;

* Adoption of Intel’s 64-bit Itanium processor will be slow;

* “”Linux will eat Unix”” as low-cost Linux clusters become used increasingly by business;

* Consulting companies will again see spending on project-based IT services down or flat due to the slowdown in adoption of complex enterprise applications and the focus on short-term projects;

* Wireless local area networks will take off, slowing development of third generation (3G) networks by telecommunications companies in North America. Carriers will use wireless LANs as cheap, fast gateways as into their networks;

* Telecom spending will again drop worldwide, despite increases in developing countries such as China;

* By the end of the year more images will be captured by digital devices than on film;

* There will be more spam in your inbox.

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer. Former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, Howard has written for several of ITWC's sister publications, including ITBusiness.ca. Before arriving at ITWC he served as a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times.

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