Cyber Security in the digital dark age
Cyber Security in the digital dark age. Business leaders who recently convened in Davos for the annual World Economic Forum fretted over the various catastrophes that could hit the globe hard and – given the recent spate of cyber attacks – cyber security was high up on the agenda.
The end result was the launch of a Global Center for Cyber security (GCC) with a clear mission to “prevent a digital dark age”. It claims to be the first platform for cyber security coordination on a global scale, bringing together governments, business and law enforcement agencies. The importance of cyber security is growing not only for traditional computer networks but also for “artificial intelligence, robotics, drones, self-driving cars and the Internet of Things”.
Cyber attacks are like any other crime, except that the origins and reach can be global. Put simply, a cyber-criminal in one country can reach out to target victims at the other end of the world. Likewise, a gang of cyber criminals could organised themselves across several countries to target their victims.
It’s the unfortunate reality of the connected world we live in, where the internet doesn’t only provide connectivity but also anonymity and transient access, all of which serve to enable such attacks.
On top of that, parallel structures over the internet – known as the dark web – have emerged to facilitate cyber-attacks of all kinds, allowing a black economy to thrive and be marketed.
This year’s Global Risk Report places cyber attacks in the top five global risks, behind only extreme weather events and natural disasters. The World Economic Forum said:
Most attacks on critical and strategic systems have not succeeded – but the combination of isolated successes with a growing list of attempted attacks suggests that risks are increasing. And the world’s increasing interconnectedness and pace heightens our vulnerability to attacks that cause not only isolated and temporary disruptions, but radical and irreversible systemic shocks.
It’s clear that a globally coordinated approach to cyber security is essential.
While this is laudable, there have been similar efforts over the past decade or so – with mixed results. The Budapest Convention on Cyber crime, launched in 2001 by the Council of Europe, was one such attempt to align laws and to enable a key provision of securing digital evidence across jurisdictions to effectively resolve investigations. Harmonization, however, has been a challenge with competing regional efforts emerging in various parts of the world.
NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence based in Tallinn, Estonia, is another such effort. It has played a major role in help producing the Tallinn Manual, which is the most comprehensive of international treaties for cyberspace law. Its impact is severely limited, however, because it is strictly an academic study and legally non-binding.
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