CYBER WARFARE vs. INTERNET CENSORSHIP
John 'J' Trinckes
June 23, 2009
It appears to me, and maybe to governments around the world, that The Internet (aka Cyberspace) is really the last frontier of freedom. In my opinion, it is probably one of the greatest inventions of all times (short of our Constitution, The Bill of Rights, and of course, the wheel). Let’s face it, where would we be today without The Internet (aka Cyberspace). At a touch of a keyboard, you have astronomically large amounts of information within seconds. You, as an average individual, have the ability to influence large groups of followers. You, as an average individual, have the ability to speak your mind and to contribute to a global community. You, as an average individual, can make real ‘changes’, not just some empty promises that can win elections.
Over the last week, I’ve come across a few articles of interest to me that I thought I would share and discuss with you as it relates to my area of expertise in Information Security. The first relates to what I was discussing above in regards to the power that The Internet (aka Cyberspace) has over people. This was actually exemplified back in the WTO protest in Seattle in 1999 and has more recently been seen taking place with protesters involved in the Iranian election dispute. This phenomenon is known as netwar as described in the article Iran’s Netwar. The article explains that the advancement of technologies, such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc., has allowed us to interact with one another in such a fashion that this interaction is now being regarded by many governments as a weapon, in and of itself. The article states that “The ability to mobilize information, resources and support is magnified almost in direct relation to this [ability].” The article goes on to say that “The government has responded with SSL/TLS filtering, tracking IP addresses and blocking access to proxy servers, as well as wiretapping cell phone communications…” How interesting, government control over The Internet (aka Cyberspace).
This moves us on to the second article I found interesting this week, The Dawning of Internet Censorship in Germany. The first paragraph reads:
“Germany is on the verge of censoring its Internet: The government – a grand coalition between the German social democrats and conservative party – seems united in its decision: On Thursday the parliament is to vote on the erection of an internet censorship architecture.”
So you may say, ‘OK, so this is in Germany, it would never happen over here.' Although this may be partially true, I would argue that this would have some impact on us here in the United States as well as in Germany. Let me explain why. First, who (or what country) owns The Internet (aka Cyberspace)? The answer is that no one individual or country owns the entire Internet (aka Cyberspace) and every individual and country owns a small part of it. (I know, this isn’t really an answer, but it is true.) The Internet (aka Cyberspace) is made up of a lot of individually connected systems. These systems are owned or operated by private individuals, companies, and countries. We, as American Citizens, expect to have the right to search for information on The Internet (aka Cyberspace) and be able to get that information back without any concern of being monitored or prevented from obtaining the information that we were looking for in the first place. (We also expect that information to be accurate and true, but that topic of discussion is for another column.) Here is my what if. What if you, as an American Citizen, look for something in Germany (or related to Germnay) and because it doesn’t conform to Germany’s applicable standards, you will not be able to retrieve that information? Or better yet, what if the information you were looking for is considered, by Germany’s terms, illegal and now you’ve violated International laws by searching for that information?
Let me be fair by explaining the article details that the discussion was lead “within the German Federal Government to block Internet sites in order to fight child pornography.” Now this is a good thing. We want to stop child pornography from being available on The Internet (aka Cyberspace); however, The Internet (aka Cyberspace), as we just discussed, is vast and ever evolving. This is an unrealistic goal to stop or even contain the child pornography issue. Wouldn’t there be better efforts, money, and time spent in catching these pedophiles in the first place? Wouldn’t we be better served in protecting the children through providing an economic environment that their parents can prosper in to protect them from these pedophiles, an education that will teach them to protect themselves, and cleaning up other issues that are related to the child pornography industry besides blocking web sites on The Internet (aka Cyberspace)?
We have seen time and time again, in our own country, that when laws are developed to stop specific issues, but are very powerful in scope, special interests get involved. Once this happens, the laws encroach or expand to other areas. It takes on a snow ball effect where a little ice cube turns into a massive snow ball as it rolls down a snow hill, gathering speed and girth as it approaches the bottom. Where will it end and how wide spread will it become? How many rights will we give up for a sense of security? (As a side note, I really like taking my belt off my pants and my shoes off of my feet at the airport, NOT!.)
So you think Internet (aka Cyberspace) censorship only happens half-way around the world, right? Wrong. I found another interesting article this week, New bill could allow police access to Internet service providers, that stated “On Thursday Canada's Public Safety Minister, Peter Van Loan, will put forward a bill that could force Internet service providers to allow police access to digital conversations without a warrant.” “Staff Sergeant Janis Gray with the RCMP's Integrated Child Exploitation Unit, says the bill will provide the police an essential tool in their fight against child porn on the Internet.” (Child porn again, where have we heard that one before.) Like me, Richard Rosenberg, a Professor Emeritus at UBC, has many concerns about the bill. He goes on to say “...the reach of police into cyberspace can have effects people aren’t prepared for. ‘This is now a formal way in which the government [of Canada] will determine who you’re in contact with, how often and for what purpose. If identified that someone or some area you’re in contact with as being a danger, you’re then connected to that.’”
Well, I must admit, we beat Canada and Germany to the punch on this one. (See CyberSecurity Act of 2009) Instead of using Child Pornography as our rationale for government control, we revert to commerce and security, but let’s call a spade ‘a spade’ for a moment, shall we? Governments around the world see The Internet (aka Cyberspace) as a threat and want to restrict it. The Internet (aka Cyberspace) is still the final frontier that needs to be explored and controlled. (Sorry for the Star Trek analogy, but I'm a Geek, what can I say.)
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The last article I found this week exemplifies how, if we can’t define a problem, we can’t fix the problem. The article, Coming to terms with cyber warfare, sums up the fact that policymakers have not really defined terms related to cyberspace (aka The Internet) such as ‘cyber war’ and ‘cyber warfare’. As Mikko HypMikko Hyppönen, chief research officer for antivirus firm FSecure states, "The vast amount of practical work being done in data security is not fighting cyber warfare, but fighting cybercrime..." He goes on to say that "When we go to cyber warfare, the definition of what we are talking about gets really muddled." "True cyber warfare is rare." The article goes on to talk about the events of attacks on networks of former Soviet states of Estonia and Georgia in 2007/2008 where even experts in the field have disagreed about the incident being considered 'full fledge cyber warfare'. “One security researcher labeled the incidents little more than Internet censorship.” (Hmm, Internet (aka Cyberspace) censorship, never heard of this before.) Not to worry and have no fear, the article points out that the CCD COE (The Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence) intends to create a lexicon of definitions as quickly as possible. (Great, finally, and once and for all, I can figure out whether to correctly use the term The Internet or Cyberspace.)
"This is just one of those reasons why I hate stupid people."
© 2009 John 'J' Trinckes - All Rights Reserve