World War IV, Cyber War, digital Pearl Harbor or cyber 9/11—people talk about catastrophic scenarios in cyberspace, whereas academics and other experts point out that there is a danger in the overuse of the cyberwar rhetoric. But is the overuse premise still valid? What if recent events in cyberspace make it no longer correct? Should states brace themselves for the age of cyber warfare?
Cyber space is without limits. Open to everyone, connecting people around the globe, it has offered unprecedented opportunities for our economies and has transformed the fabric of our societies. But it has also made our open societies extremely vulnerable. Spectacular intrusions into the world wide web, often called “cyber attacks”, have made for headlines in media across the world. Cyber crime is a booming business, making about half a trillion US-Dollars every year. Cybersecurity has become a major concern, not only for business, but for governments as well, which have to provide security for their countries and defend the civil liberties of their citizens. The significant increase in intensity and sophistication of cyber attacks and their use in military operations have raised serious concerns at NATO and among the 28 Allies.
In Philip Pullman’s popular 'His Dark Materials' series, there is a race of largely solitary armored bears who have a society based on the real-life island of Svalbard. They are known as the Panserbjorne, they guard their territories and consider honorable fighting as sacrosanct. They also have opposable thumbs, giving them the ability to manipulate complex objects as do humans, and they consider their armor, what can be considered their clothing, to be their souls.
In an age of security, surveillance, and Snowden, even civilians with nothing to hide may presuppose that they are under some form of surveillance from the government. The public assumption is simple, saying something as innocuous as “bombardier” might be a trigger word that could result in a wiretap without a warrant. While this may very well be the perception in the United States, thousands of criminal networks are still operating regardless of the increased reach of government surveillance. Drug dealers, human trafficking syndicates, prostitutes, and child pornographers are all able to sell, market, and distribute their services and wares openly online and through alternative forms of communication and mechanisms for transactions.
As the complicated mess of the Ukraine crisis continues to unravel, global commentators have been eagerly suggesting that the escalatory nature of the conflict could lead to a “cyber war.” Although this may be an inflation of the reality, it calls to mind the human costs of such a scenario. Jarno Limnéll, Director of Cyber Security at McAfee, identifies that likely targets “could include ATM networks, e-commerce systems, energy grids, transit and road signals, air traffic control, and certainly military command lines.” In truth, Limnéll is right, but his flag of concern only touches the edge of the enormous hurt that could be felt by us all. The cyber assassin’s tool kit is simple enough to understand, but we should be weary of its ability, capability, flexibility and agility. It is this lethal cocktail of adjectives within the context of limiting damage that must be treated with agreed restrictions for the interest of human life and dignity.
As technology increases in a 21st century marketplace, the ability to share products, ideas, and services increases. But so to do the threats and risk involved with utilizing a digital medium. Identifying and managing these cyber risks therefore, becomes imperative in ensuring the security of global business. With such an interconnected, 24/7 world, security cannot override the existing platforms of enterprise. Cyber security must be organic to the growth of business and international trade.
“I’m looking you up, and when I find you, I’m going to rape you and remove your head. You are going to die and I am the one who is going to kill you. I promise you this.”
This message was sent in a series of tweets to journalist Amanda Hess, but the truth is women online receive messages similar to this every day. In nearly all cases, women are sent these messages simply for stating an opinion online that someone disagreed with.
On 8 November last year, Iran’s supreme leader sent a Tweet. It read as follows: This barbaric, wolflike & infanticidal regime of #Israel which spares no crime has no cure but to be annihilated. 7/23/14 #HandsOffAlAqsa.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has offered a glimpse into its Z-Man Program, which is currently testing a material that allows humans to scale walls with the aid of climbing paddles. The project was inspired by the biological properties of geckos, whose toes allow the animal to hang by a single toe from nearly any surface. In the future, U.S. warfighters will be able to scale any wall while carrying a full combat load.
With each advancing year, more novel information technology is brought online, simultaneously advancing societal capabilities and dependence on new and legacy systems in areas as diverse as healthcare, finance, entertainment, defense, and critical infrastructure. Despite unceasing news of cyber attacks and various exploits that appear to strike into the nervous system of modern society, many information technology companies continue their long pattern of outsourcing risk, since—it is thought—building technology with security first in mind may make it harder to bring to market or less profitable.
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