Cybersecurity: A Balancing Act

Technological innovation continues to bring forth new and interesting challenges and with it the ever-increasing need to manage cybersecurity in inventive and resourceful ways.  The advances in technology has forced an evolution in cybersecurity to meet the emergence of cybercrimes.  It also has put pressure on the international community to collaborate on methods of transnational cooperation as it relates to cybersecurity and cybercrime. 

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CC-licensed work by Michael Molenda.

The WGIG working paper on cybersecurity points out that Vice President Gore stated in 1999 that “unlawful activity is not unique to the internet – but the internet has a way of magnifying both the good and the bad in our society … what we need to do is to find new answers to old crimes.”  There is accuracy in his statement, but, as we have learned over the last 14 years, it is a rather simplistic answer to a complex problem.

The simplicity is in that, as usage of the Internet continues to expand, we do need to find new answer to old crimes.  Particularly since in many cases the categories of crimes have remained similar; it’s the modes that have changed.   And as technological advancements expand the modes continue to evolve alongside it.  This constant evolution places pressure on governments, civil societies, and the private sector to work collaboratively through Internet Governance Organizations to find ways of dealing with cybercrime.   The caveat in many nations may be finding ways of doing so without infringing on the civil liberties and privacy of their citizenry.

Cybersecurity is seen as a double-edged sword in how it protects privacy and invades privacy.  For example when cybersecurity is working on a small scale, it can be seen in the encryption software that ensure your information remains private whether than be on an Internet site, a banking site, or an e-commerce site.  It provides a layer of protection against those committing acts of cybercrimes.

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CC-licensed work by g4ll4is

However, when governments are proactively utilizing cybersecurity technology as a measure to compile information on their citizenry in the hopes of determining whether there is an imminent or future threat, the practice creates privacy concerns around invasiveness.  For example there are a number of reports that the United State’s National Security Agency‘s PRISM program extracts and compiles data on global users by leveraging information from online service providers and that the government plans to expand its capabilities in this regard with the proposed legislation of CISPA and SOPA.  However, these measures are not isolated to the United States as can be seen with Tempora, the UK’s surveillance program that was revealed by Edward Snowden.   This begs the question: Is cybersecurity ultimately a balance of societal needs in relation to the potential or possibility of different cybercrimes?

It can be suggested that the balance is dependent upon the values of the society and how those values are balanced by the government, the private sector, and the civil society.  If one society values the safety of said society as being the top priority, personal privacy becomes less of an immediate concern.   This can be seen in the passing of the Patriot Act after national security threats.  On the other side, if civil liberties are placed higher than societal safety as a whole then cybersecurity measures will be more focused on threats related to the individual, which as can be seen in continued measures to thwart NSA data collection and rally against the passing of CISPA and SOPA.  Although in a world that is increasingly reliant on the usage of new and innovative technologies, how much privacy can be realistically expected?

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One Response to Cybersecurity: A Balancing Act

  1. Pingback: Mobile and Wearable Computing: A Day with Technology | Global Innovation in ICT

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