Cyberspace is the national environment in which communication over computer networks occurs.
What do you mean by cyberspace is insecure?
We know that Since the emergence of behaviorally modern man some 50,000 years ago, we have been constant features of all subsequent iterations of culture- technology and conflict.
Technology has always defined the reach of our theatre; and in that sense, we have encompassed (and conquered) the physical domains of land, sea, air, and space. Each and every such expansion has been mirrored by our need to defend, and ability to attack.
Recent history has introduced a new domain into our existence- one that is almost conceptual rather than physical. Cyberspace is the emergent unblinking, silent, and invisible domain of humanity’s existence created by the impossibly complex interaction of all our devices and networks. It has no borders, no perimeters, and exists everywhere simultaneously. It is, as William Gibson described in his 1984 novel Neuromancer “A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation…”
‘Critical national infrastructure’
“In humanity’s relentless drive for convenience and economic growth…” writes Misha Glenny, “we have developed a dangerous level of dependency on networked systems in a very short space of time: in less than two decades, huge parts of the so-called ‘critical national infrastructure’ in most countries have come under the control of ever more complex computer systems. Computers guide large parts of our lives as they regulate our communications, vehicles, interaction with commerce and the state, work, our leisure, everything”
Estimates by Cisco state that by the end of 2013, the number of mobile-connected devices (not including traditional computers, servers, and other pieces of hardware) will exceed the number of people on Earth. By 2017, the world expects to have over 10 billion such devices, generating 130 exabytes of data per year (= 33 billion DVDs, 4.3 quadrillion MP3 files, or 813 quadrillion text messages). Projecting forward, current plans are often a good proxy for our trajectory of the future, significantly we now have (available) over 100 unique internet addresses for each and every atom on our planet.
How serious is the threat posed by cyberspace?
As said by Col. Artur Suzik There’s a real and serious threat to society.
Cyber attacks with various motivations; political, financial, or otherwise happen each day now and will continue in the future. This is why many countries consider cybersecurity a national priority issue.
It has become very cheap to launch a cyberattack, from a nation-state, company, or individual perspective. During our recent CyCon conference, a presenter from Microsoft mentioned that there are 17 nations that now publically declare having a cyber offensive capability. It’s not just about individuals and criminals, but also nation-states that have to examine cyber threats.
When we speak about cyberspace, look at a coin. On one side is cyber-defense, and on the other is cyber-offense including criminals, terrorists, and so on. You cannot separate them from each other.
By Ambassador Gábor Iklódy-
It’s not cyberspace that is the threat, but people manipulating or abusing it. The threat is imminent, real, and very serious.
The focus today is mainly on cyber-crime and espionage against banks, industry, and government networks. In terms of economic loss, the most often used figures are really frightening; around US$1 trillion per year. In terms of security threats, US intelligence assessments put cyber threats.
There are similarly big or maybe even larger realms of the known unknowns, or the unknown unknowns. These are things we don’t see, or find out after many years (such as codes implanted in systems that are only discovered after many years).
Writing malicious code is considered a low-cost and high-impact weapon. Fortunately, we have not seen terrorist use of cyber-means yet, but that’s really the ultimate nightmare… when the capacity to do harm comes together with the intent to do harm.
By Prof. Sadie Creese
The threat is serious and real.
People are experiencing significant losses through their engagement with cyberspace. This could be large scale hack attacks, corporations having their intellectual property stolen, organizations (all) being held to ransom by people getting onto their systems and putting assets out of reach until the perpetrators are paid, or even the man on the street having their identity credentials stolen and reused. It could even be people buying fake goods, and being susceptible to traditional crimes that are engaged using cyberspace.
This threat is serious and real not just because people are attacked, but the nature of cyberspace makes these attacks complex. The benefits that we get from our ability to process big data and the advanced intelligence, scaling, and efficiencies that provide also enable people who wish to do us wrong. As an enabler of crime, cyberspace allows you to scale, de-skill, and commit crimes in parts of the world- and using methods- that make it very hard to police and gather evidence.
There are definite upsides to cyberspace, but those same upsides enable criminals and the like. This problem is compounded by the fact that the risks are very unintuitive for most human beings. We have reflexes that enable us to flee when we’re scared and make judgments when we’re being lied to or threatened. We have not evolved those human responses for cyberspace; we’re simply not tooled up.
By Prof. Howard Schmidt
We need to look at the evolution of cyberspace, to begin with.
First, there were just a few of us online; researchers, academics, and so on. This expanded into a few commercial things… pretty static web pages… and look where we are now.
The threat is increasing exponentially because more people are involved in criminal activity, espionage and intellectual property theft are learning that for little investment- they can get good financial rewards online. The system was never designed to deal with high-threat environments.
As people learn more about vulnerabilities and how to exploit them, they share that information with each other [in many cases] better than we do in the private sector and government. It’s a constant cat and mouse game to get ahead of where the bad guys are… fixing the things built in the past and building well for the future.
What are the unique characteristics and challenges of cyberspace theatre?
In the military context, there is always a strategic and operational goal to be achieved. Actions in cyberspace are always connected with overall operational and mission plans. Cyber increases the scope of possible means and ways by which states can achieve their goals. That’s why operational aspects of using cyber could be far greater than conventional forces.
If an action is taken by someone for economic, ideological, or political reasons, from a military perspective it becomes real and can often be connected with strategic means and actions.
No borders, no space
There are specificities coming with cyberspace. There are no borders, no space, no time. It is invisible. These are key attributes of cyberspace. In particular, the speed element is critical. We want to do our business properly, we need to focus a lot more on prevention, as there will be cyber attacks in the future. This requires co-operation, intelligence sharing, technology, and many other things. Resilience is critical.
We know there will be cyber attacks in the future, and we must harden our infrastructure so that when the blow comes, we can receive the blow and reconstitute our networks as quickly as possible. The third area is the response. If we are subject to a serious campaign of attacks, we want to make sure that the attacks can be stopped. One challenge that comes with this is that our good-old crisis management and decision-making procedures do not work in cyberspace.
What are the threats posed to nations from cyberspace?
We have to be focused on critical and national infrastructure. These are the infrastructures that keep the food on our tables, keep planes in the air, keep us going to work, keep our hospitals running, keep our houses warm, keep the electricity running, and money in the banks.
These are parts of the critical infrastructures without which life would grind to a halt potentially pretty quickly. They are also all critically dependent on cyberspace to greater or lesser degrees. Unfortunately, the complexities of these relationships and the organizations themselves mean that there is little understanding of how they use cyberspace and digital assets.
As citizens, we need to have an eye on our own roles in protecting those infrastructures. If I am a staff member at one of those corporations, I have to understand how I fit into the picture of keeping those organizations running.
How is technological advance contributing to risks from cyberspace?
The more technologically advanced we are, the more vulnerable we become; because of our dependency on the digital way of life.
Many devices which will be connected to the internet of things are very inexpensive, and they are often not as secure as they should be. Being advanced also opens out a number of threats.
Not having full control of your data, identity theft, and so forth; all these things are threats to digitally advanced nations. In Estonia for example, in 2007 we had severe cyber attacks. We use a lot of digital services here, people like and enjoy using e-services, but at the same time, the nation depends on these services which makes us vulnerable.
Are there any specific characteristics of cyber-threats that are unique to NATO?
NATO primarily concentrates on the protection of the networks it owns and operates. That is our primary headache, and the emphasis is very much on early detection. We have an operational capability called the NATO Computer Incident Response Capability (NCIRC). This is a team of experts, assisted by technology, who try to manage all NATO networks under centralized protections.
They try to be aware of all malicious activities, and ideally are able to detect malicious activity before they target NATO networks. That’s one key element. The other is that we are a defense alliance. Our strategic concept adopted in November 2010 states that if the impact of an attack reaches a certain threshold, it becomes a common concern and may require a concerted response.
Who are the key stakeholders in cyber security?
It is in this sense that we realize that defense is no longer the realm of government and military. Dealing with cyber-attacks, and cyberspace-related challenges requires a collaborative approach where state and non-state actors, military and civilian, the defense establishment and homeland security, the private sector, and academia should all be part of the effort. They all have things to bring to the table.
If we look at the industry; we know that the industry owns and operates 85-90% of all the networks. Technology comes from them, and they are the first line of defense. They are shaping the technological environment of the future. If governments want to know what kind of decisions to take now in order to be more prepared for the future, they need to work closely with the industry.
Who owns the Internet?
Citizens are also important! Who owns the Internet? …. often individuals are building it! Governments should not think for a moment that cyberspace belongs to them, it doesn’t. Governments cannot lean back, no one can go it alone, none of them are powerful enough to do that.
What would be the impact on the world of total cyber-security?
A secure cyber environment would have very positive economic consequences. We would see more investment, lower risks in digital transactions, less money being lost, less IP being stolen, and so on.
More secure cyberspace will accelerate the development of technology and society. At the same time, more secure cyberspace would enable more utilization of cyber means for diplomatic, economic, and political purposes.
There will always be ways to breach a system, and at any given moment the real battle is making sure that the community is one step ahead of hackers and actors.
Is there a thing as a 100% secure system?
There is no such thing as a 100% secure system, but investing in cyber security can protect our way of life now, and in the future.
We are using cyberspace extensively. If the trust element can be handled more convincingly, the speed at which this expansion continues will be even faster. In my mind, whatever happens – even if the trust element cannot be secured easily – we will continue to use cyberspace and the internet more extensively anyway.
Only if there is a major incident or a major crisis, will we see a rupture in this trend. For instance, e-commerce characterizes a huge amount of our overall transactions. But if all of a sudden we found out that our money could be stolen through our use of e-commerce, there may be a lot of people going back to banknotes and cards – for a while.
Then what is the bottom line?
The bottom line is: that technological development and our use of cyberspace cannot be stopped or reversed.
I suspect we wouldn’t really know if we achieved the hypothetical aims of complete trust, safety, and security… people’s views on these differ greatly.
Cyberspace is clearly a force for good. It underpins all the developing world economies and provides them with the opportunity to become more prosperous and raise the quality of life of citizens. Ensuring people feel cyberspace is a place where they can do business and live their lives has to be a good thing. It could even mean that people are more willing to share richer data and information which could increase the quality of the algorithms and data produced, enhancing services available, science, and so on.
Equally, you have to guard against complacency. If you create a world where everyone believes they had safe and secure cyberspace, but in truth, people were conducting malicious activities- you could very well switch off your defenses.
The truth is that there will always be people engaged in cyberspace. It’s difficult to imagine we will see a world without that small proportion of people who want to break the rules and harm others.
There is no such thing as complete security. You couldn’t even decide it! Even if you have a bunch of metrics, you will never find a metric that determines in a binary sense that “yes, you are now secure, or no you’re not…” It’s about balance, risk management, and understanding whether you are secure enough to do what you need to do.
The internet will continue to open up human communication at all levels, with people we know (such as friends and family) and people who we don’t- and who we must be sure of before entering into communications, transactions, and so forth.
This is not just about business, but about how we live life. In the past ten years, smartphones have gone from something that very few people had to know where the loss of a smartphone is distressing and disruptive! We’re only 20 years since the inception of the internet as we know it. It’s still in its infancy and will continue to change society as we move forward.
We (as humans) often have conceptual difficulty in recognizing our oneness with technology. Technology is not a phenomenon like the weather (which occurs independently from us).
Technology is instead, a manifestation of humanity itself. Our minds, shape not just how our society works, but our very understanding of what society is.
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