With an increase in adoption of new technologies by governments, there is a need to look at issues of internet governance and cyber security
Arvind Gupta | October 21, 2016
Excerpts from the deputy national security advisor’s speech at CyFy 2016: Digital Asia Scripting the New Governance Order conference organised by Observer Research Foundation on September 30.
Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are emerging as the engine of growth and prosperity in India. We have gained enormously from the cyber space. At the same time, we find ourselves vulnerable with threats to national security originating in cyber space.
We are already seeing the difference in how the internet should be governed and how we should rescue cyber space from cyber terrorism and crime. The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) document adopted last year gives attention to the need for bridging the digital divide and the growing role of ICT in sustainable development.
India supports a multi-stakeholder model of governance of the internet, while emphasising that governments must have a strong and clearly defined role in the matters of national security. The multi-stakeholder model is in the midst of reform. The process has been delayed and new model is not yet in place. We hope that the new model will be inclusive and representative.
Technology is central to cyber space, but it is changing. We have seen how the internet has changed in the last few years. We can be sure that the nature of the internet will dramatically change in the medium- and long-term horizon – there will be more users, applications, devices, information, etc. Machines will do more work for the humans. We will see the dawn of the era of internet of things (IoT). We are also witnessing a rise in new technologies and growing applications of artificial intelligence (AI) in the cyber space.
The impact of new technologies on the internet, society and security needs to be understood. The developments in cyber space are not just about bits and bytes. The growth of this domain needs to be seen in the context of ongoing geopolitical transformation of the world. Cyber space has become a driver of geopolitical transformation as well. Cyber issues are on top of the international security agenda along with climate change, international terrorism and migration.
International security has acquired a distinct dimension today. The information revolution is changing the nature of politics and methods of exercising power. Knowledge-based aspects such as control over technology and intellectual property are becoming the new source of contestation. Control over information is at the heart of this contest. It is interesting to note that private companies sit on more private information than governments. The citizens part their personal information without thinking to the private companies, while they resist sharing it with the government.
The relationship between global internet companies, governments and citizens is evolving in interesting ways. Information revolution is stimulating multiple revolutions, which is changing social, political and economic scenario. Technology is changing behavioural patterns in society. The massive churn in the Middle East or East Asia, brought by erupting concrete sectarian style regional rivalries, has also been facilitated with the use of technology.
A matter of serious concern has been adoption of technology by terrorist groups. ISIS has an extremely effective social media strategy. Jihad 3.0 makes jihad attractive to the youth. Al Qaeda has created a jihad cloud and is using the new media for recruitment, radicalisation of young minds, and reaching out to larger audiences.
Governments have also been quick to adopt new technologies. Hierarchical structures and traditional models of governance are being challenged. The governments come under pressure to act according to the trending pattern on social media. Politicians, international leaders, television news channels and newspapers take queue from social media to set their agenda. The traditional methods of reflection and deliberation are under intense pressure from social media-driven narratives.
But social media is under scrutiny for all kinds of reasons. Yet not all social media is negative. For instance, the #bringbackourgirls on Twitter forced the international community to take note of girls being kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria. Rescuers regularly use social media tools for search and rescue purposes. In India, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) has used social media umpteen times for evacuation of people stranded in conflict zones. It was also used effectively during Chennai flood relief and evacuation. Among other technologies which will have tremendous impact on cyber space and society in general is artificial intelligence.
Cyber space has already become an arena for precision. The revolution in military affairs has led to more precision weapons, new integrated command and control systems, network centric warfare and surveillance reconnaissance technologies. A related field that is gaining global attention is the development of lethal autonomous weapon systems that can search for a target, assess its defence capabilities, and choose the best option for attacking including cyber attacks. Even cyber security is said to become more automotive in the future based on AI techniques. The use of cognitive algorithms to constantly learn and adapt to new set of malware attacks is likely to further alter the cyber security domain.
Another technology which will have huge impact on society is ‘blockchain’, already in use in crypto-currencies like bitcoins. This technology makes bitcoins more secure. Many global banks are investigating its potential for cheap, secure and efficient financial services. This technology could also be used to manage and protect citizens’ data and is tamper-proof to protect critical information infrastructure. This is one area that will impact the future of cyber security.
Science fiction is fast becoming reality. The use of AI in cyber defence has been the focus of recent high-profile cyber security conferences. Companies are looking for next generation protection systems based on AI that understand how to analyse data, anticipate sources of threat and adjust to cyber security threats. However, it has also raised a number of ethical/legal questions: whether autonomous weapons can replace humans and what would be the impact of leaving high stake decisions to machines and AI platforms. For instance, who will be responsible if machines violate international laws? Are autonomous systems capable of complex decision making? There is a need to ponder over these questions now.
Technology will also have an impact on jobs. In most countries, developing ones, the youth is getting restless. The job opportunities are not growing as fast as they should. This is at the root of many security problems like terrorism, organised crime and migration. Large scale displacement of population has put in jeopardy the future of millions of children. We have to ask how ICT could overcome these problems. No doubt ICT will help create jobs but most of these jobs will require high skills. We need to do an objective analysis of the relationship between technology and jobs. Technologies which increase efficiency but destroy jobs do not suit the developing countries.
The technology-job dilemma is being faced by many countries, including the developed ones. According to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study, advancement in computer technology including robotics and automated translation services has been the cause for sluggish employment growth in the US since 2000. The increased productivity leading to more jobs – a trend established after the Second World War – has now been reversed.
Reports also show that median income has fallen in the US despite record levels of growth in productivity. It has been found that as many as seven million jobs could be lost by 2020 due to redundancy and automation. Today, education is not geared for the next generation jobs. Around 65 percent children starting primary school today will be employed in jobs which don’t exist today. Therefore, suitable education and adult training programmes will be the key to future employment.
This will have important implications; many in the area of national security. The vulnerabilities in cyber space are growing faster than the capacity to deal with them. This is because technology is changing rapidly. Second, the process of development of norms in cyber space lacks significantly. One idea that has been articulated by Microsoft is that in the recent times there should be norms for global ICT industry. It includes delivering secure products and services, enhancing trust in technology, support defensive measures by states and industry, assisting in recovering post attacks and refraining from any type of offensive attacks.
Security agencies need to adopt new technologies. Concerns of citizens must be factored in. The dilemma of security vs privacy must be resolved. Fourth, cyber security cooperation must be developed in the areas of education, capacity building and skills needed for 21st century.
Implications for India
The government and private sector must build a credible and strong cyber security industry. India has a cyber security strategy in place but as technologies evolve and threats multiply, it needs to constantly update its capabilities and capacities.
We need to take note of the security doctrines which talked about cyber deterrence by punishment, denial or by other means. The implementation of these doctrines should be studied and understood. Think tanks should spend more time and resources on this purpose.
India must not remain a mute spectator to the ongoing development in cyber security. It should contribute to the present phase of rule-making in cyber space. It will have to closely watch the developments of international law with regard to cyber space.
(The column appears in the October 16-31, 2016 issue)
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