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August 10, 2009

Gartner predicts IT regulation by 2015

Concerns over safety, security and reliability drive new measures

By Steve Evans

IT services and products are likely to be regulated by 2015 as a result of increased concerns over safety, security and reliability, according to a new report from analyst firm Gartner.

The analyst house is keen to stress that it neither supports nor opposes IT regulation but expects the EU to take the first steps towards the regulation of consumer-oriented IT products as early as 2011.

“Three years ago Gartner published research predicting that either catastrophe from IT failure, or a continuing history of lower-level failures would provoke either a governmental regulation or industry self-regulation of IT products and services in the US by 2015 and in the European Union by 2015 to 2018,” said Richard Hunter, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “Although the exact date of arrival for regulation is difficult to predict, we believe that, in recent months, the tempo and intensity of the indications of such an event have increased.”

An increase in the number of cyber criminals targeting government and industry sectors indicats that security within IT is a big worry, Gartner believes.

In June this year, US President Barack Obama announced he would be appointing a US cyber security tsar and declared that the country was not as prepared for a cyber attack as it should be. In the UK, Prime Minister Gordon Brown recently outlined extensive new measures to combat threats in cyber space, including a dedicated Office of Cyber Security and a new multi-agency Cyber Security Operations Centre that will coordinate the protection of the UK’s critical IT systems.

Gartner also pinpointed social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and MySpace as potential danger areas for minors as well as any personal data that may be shared online.

All these events are taking place within a global climate that is shifting towards regulation on many fronts, said Hunter. As a result of the economic crisis, the social environment is considerably less trusting and secure. The public is wary of cascading risks and would seem to be supportive of legislation and litigation aimed at reducing those risks, including those posed by IT.

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The firm warns that these changes will present great challenges to businesses. The report warns that many vendors and most corporate IT vendors are not yet ready to meet those challenges.

Software vendors should be aware that, “increased liability and regulation will drive generic software out of the market and prepare themselves for transparency and product/price differentiation based on quality and certified fitness for purpose,” the report said.

Gartner added that IT service providers need to incorporate strong documentation, audit right provisions and legal compliance terminology into outsourcing deals.

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