Last week, our presentations on ICT technologies and their applications in different ICT sectors educated us about the challenges that developing countries face when implementing these projects. We also learned how access to information is critical to all aspects of ICT4D and its’ different offshoots. We completely changed gears with the guest speaker on Tuesday but we still discussed how important this access to information is. Cyber security and cyber warfare have emerged in the last decade as innovations in technology continue to advance rapidly. In the world of cyber warfare, hacking and cyber espionage have become extremely common. In the CIA and NSA, the United States has hundreds, if not thousands, of workers devoted to keeping tabs on cyber terrorists and their organizations and preventing them from attacking us as well as ensuring that our data is secure.
But the questions about how secure is our data have come up numerous times over the last few years, as cyber espionage from China have emerged and individuals like such as Julian Assange and Edward Snowden have leaked U.S. military and government data. If one of the most powerful countries on earth’s private information and data is susceptible to two individuals, how secure is the technology we use in our own homes on a daily basis? We have talked all year about how mobile phones, especially smartphones, are a critical tool in international development and ICT technologies. But I learned from this CNN article that as smartphones, which have more than 100 times the computing power than the average satellite, provide more hope for ICT4D and digital communication they also make us more vulnerable to cyber attacks.
This is concerning because emails have become less and less secure in recent times, forcing people to rely heavily on their smartphones. And in developing and emerging markets, such as China, this is an even bigger problem because smartphone users download apps from third party sites because Google Play is banned. Many of the apps on these third party sites contain AndroRAT, a new software developed by hackers that makes it very easy to inject malicious code into a fake version of an app. Smartphones will continue to be a popular destination for hackers and as this technology becomes increasingly ubiquitous in the developing and developed worlds, we will need to find ways to secure mobile phone data and information.
On Tuesday, our class had the pleasure of hearing a lecture on cybersecurity. We talked about what exactly cybersecurity is and what kinds of things threaten our cyber safety. It became immediately apparent that there is a “dark side” to the technology that we have come to thrive off of and depend on. We discussed the concept of hacking and the many different ways that our data can be compromised without our knowledge. One thing that really resonated with me was our discussion of APTs, or Advanced Persistent Threats.
An APT is a set of stealthy and continuous hacking processes orchestrated by a group of people targeting a specific entity. APTs usually target organizations and or nations for business or political motives. There are entire military units devoted to this kind of Internet-enabled espionage. For example, APT1 is a term commonly used to refer to Unit 61398 of the People’s Liberation Army of China. They exist solely for this purpose. One of the first things that comes to mind is, “What are the ramifications?”, especially for a nation like the U.S. that relies so heavily on its data. Is our data safe? Are our networks secure?
In a recent article by Matt Sheehan of the Huffington Post, we can see that this is a growing concern. China has been making massive investments in United States technology, and the investments are only growing. For many, it may seem as though China is a little too close for comfort. We know they have the kind of technology to invade our networks, just as we have the technology to invade theirs. Is this becoming a modern day Cold War? Cybersecurity concerns could easily turn into Cyber Warfare. Traditionally, the United States’ economy welcomes this kind of foreign investment, but in the near future it will become increasingly important to exercise discretion, and to understand the potential consequences of giving our competitors a hand in our technological developments.
Technological advances have given rise to an entirely new, yet equally as threatening form of combat- cyber warfare. Both developed and developing countries worldwide are now faced with the issue of cyber security. While a number of multi-national agreements and initiatives are in motion to help resolve cyber attacks, world governments need to begin to look internally in order to find the source of these crimes. One such government that should be shifting to this focus is that of Brazil, since this Latin American nation is currently at the forefront of cyber security issues.
While ICTs have helped Brazil climb the economic ranks over the past decade, surpassing the U.K. as the sixth best economy in the world, the country has paid little to no attention to ensuring the proper laws and regulations are in place in order to facilitate further ICT development. For example, there is a serious lack of privacy protection for any data being sent over the nation’s networks due to there being no privacy legislation in place. In addition to having no privacy legislation, Brazil also has not implemented any legislation addressing cybercrime. Any cyber laws that Brazil does have are either outdated or in conflict with international standards. According to an article on foreignpolicydigest.org, in Brazil, “Six in ten computers in the country are attacked with viruses and malware.” (http://goo.gl/5w8Pz) Furthermore, the article describes an analysis that found that resolving the average cyber attack on an individual in Brazil not only costs an average of $1,408 U.S. dollars, but also takes 44 days to fix.
This is unsurprising, seeing as how Brazil also has gaps in intellectual property protection. Not only has Brazil not updated its copyright laws to protect newer technologies, but it also has not signed the WIpo copyright treaty. Due to these types of serious gaps in their cyber security infrastructure, Brazil experiences widespread online piracy as well. The Foreign Policy Digest article also makes reference to the fact that Brazil will be hosting the 2 largest international sporting events in thw world in the coming years- The World Cup and The Olympics. With a huge influx of high-profile individuals coming into the nation, and likely transferring important information over their network, Brazil would be wise to begin beefing up their cyber security efforts.