The Pentagon's claims in a new report that China is trying to extract sensitive information from U.S. government computers has put cyber security issues back in the media spotlight.
But how serious is the threat to U.S. interests? How can America respond? And what other issues should be attracting policymakers’ attention?
Cyber security expert Eugene Spafford, a professor of computer sciences at Purdue University and former member of the President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee, will be taking questions from GPS readers. Please leave your questions in the comment section below.
Editor’s note: Zeynep Tufekci is assistant professor at the School of Information at the University of North Carolina, and she is a visiting scholar at Princeton's Center for Information Technology Policy at the Woodrow Wilson School. She blogs at technosociology.org and can be found on Twitter @techsoc. The views expressed are her own.
By Zeynep Tufekci, Special to CNN
The recent protests over a crude and offensive anti-Islam video serve as a lesson about cultural clash in the Internet era — not necessarily between extremists on both sides, but rather between cultural understandings of free speech and the public sphere.
It used to be that you needed to travel someplace new to experience culture clash. But by creating immediate connections between people, the Internet can create a culture clash without anyone leaving their couch.
The chasm I’m most worried about is not the one among the makers of the film and those who might have reacted to it with violence. In fact, one may argue that the hate-mongers who made this video and those who use the provocation as a pretext to kill are in a symbiotic, mutually reinforcing relationship.
The gap I’m most concerned about is the one between the vast majority of people in the Middle East and North Africa who watched the violence in Libya with horror and disgust and yet still find the existence of the video troubling and disturbing, and everyday Americans who see the story as just a few marginal, hateful people putting this video on YouTube.
To understand why this particular narrative of free speech is deeply unsatisfying to many people in the Middle East, you have to keep in mind significant historical differences between the rest of the world and the United States.
America’s free-speech culture and its legal framework are unique in the world — and genuinely baffling to many.
Editor's note: Gabrielle Ramaiah is a Ph.D. student in Government at Harvard University. Jason Warner is a Ph.D. student in African Studies and Government at Harvard University. The views expressed are solely those of the authors.
When Kenya invaded Somalia in October 2011 to oust destabilizing Al Shabaab insurgent elements there, the international community paid scant attention. Apparently more newsworthy was the “Tweet-off” a couple of months later between the Kenyan Army’s spokesman Emmanuel Chirchir and a spokesman for Al Shabaab that touched on issues as mundane as goat killings and as contentious as the ethical permissibility of war tactics. The episode was a reminder not only of the prevalence of the internet even in the world’s failed states, but, more importantly, it underscored how social media might be used as a tool in the conduct of international wars – or in the pursuit of peace.
Here are four ways social media could change the face of conflict in Africa and throughout the developing world:
1. Social media platforms could help reduce civilian conflict casualtiesby serving as early warning systems, helping citizens stay connected to humanitarian organizations, and keeping citizens secure in the aftermath of crimes. For instance, in the turmoil of Kenya’s 2008 post-election violence, a blogger’s plea for real time information on political deaths led to the creation of Ushahidi (or “testimony,” in Swahili), a platform that allows people to send tweets, SMS text, or web-based messages sharing the location and nature of outbreaks of violence. This Twitter and mobile based violence reporting platform offers certain improvements over traditional media outlets’ coverage, and has since been used to track conflict trends in the lead-up to South Sudan’s independence, as well as instances of violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa. In terms of crime mitigation, a Kenyan village chief claims to have drastically reduced crime rates in his community by sending out Tweets instructing citizens what to do in the aftermath of insecurity.
Editor's Note: Joseph S. Nye, Jr., a former U.S. assistant secretary of defense in the Clinton Administration, is a professor at Harvard and the author of The Future of Power. For more on Nye, visit Project Syndicate or follow it on Facebook and Twitter.
By Joseph S. Nye, Project Syndicate
Two years ago, a piece of faulty computer code infected Iran’s nuclear program and destroyed many of the centrifuges used to enrich uranium. Some observers declared this apparent sabotage to be the harbinger of a new form of warfare, and United States Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has warned Americans of the danger of a “cyber Pearl Harbor” attack on the US. But what do we really know about cyber conflict?
The cyber domain of computers and related electronic activities is a complex man-made environment, and human adversaries are purposeful and intelligent. Mountains and oceans are hard to move, but portions of cyberspace can be turned on and off by throwing a switch. It is far cheaper and quicker to move electrons across the globe than to move large ships long distances. FULL POST
By Fareed Zakaria, CNN
Last night, my special premiered on CNN: The GPS Road Map for Saving Health Care. Thanks to thousands of you, the hashtag I used to live-tweet the special, #SavingHealthCare, trended on Twitter. I've pasted some of the most re-tweeted tweets below. FULL POST
Editor’s Note: Katrina Timlin is a Research Assistant for the Technology and Public Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
By Katrina Timlin – Special to CNN
Few would argue against the need to improve U.S. cybersecurity, but the current partisan divide on how to accomplish this goal threatens to stall much-needed legislation in this area. On February 14th, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, a bill that aims to improve US cyber defense, clarify responsible government oversight authorities, raise issue awareness, and promote information sharing between the private sector and the government. Citing the rapidity with which this bill was brought to the floor and its “prescriptive regulations,” seven GOP senators are seeking to delay this bill and will propose their own cybersecurity legislation on February 21st. The legislative progress on cyber defense is now stalled, and further delays could prove damaging to U.S. economic and national security. FULL POST
By Jamie Crawford, CNN's Security Clearance
Guided by an army of "geeks with a conscience," a network of digital activists, working mostly in the shadows, is emerging to challenge the restrictions of repressive governments around the world.
Sascha Meinrath is part of that army.
Working with a team of tech experts inside a nondescript building in downtown Washington, Meinrath is developing new technologies that could one day be used to evade government censors and secret police. "You can imagine any of the world's hot spots, and we have been contacted by people there," he told CNN.
With governments in Iran, Syria, Cuba and elsewhere around the world trying to clamp down on freedom of expression both in public and online, the march is on to put a stop to it.
Since coming into office, the Obama administration has actively supported the construction of detours around Internet censors in repressive environments like Iran and Syria, thereby enabling activists to communicate with each other, and organize, without the threat of surveillance by the very governments they are trying to subvert.
The administration has issued more than $70 million worth of grants to nongovernmental organizations developing technologies to assist activists inside repressive countries to stay connected, regardless of government efforts to keep them silent.
Editor's Note: The following is reprinted with the permission of World Politics Review. For more from WPR, sign up for a free trial of their subscription service, get their weekly e-mail, or follow them on Twitter. Rex Brynen is Professor of Political Science at McGill University and co-editor of the PAXsims blog on conflict simulation.
By Rey Brynen, World Politics Review
When former U.S. Marine Amir Mirzaei Hekmati was sentenced to death for espionage by an Iranian court earlier this month, he was accused, among other things, of helping to make video games. In his televised “confession,” Hekmati stated that, after working for the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, “I was recruited by Kuma Games Company, a computer games company which received money from [the] CIA to design and make special films and computer games to change the public opinion’s mindset in the Middle East.” He added, “The goal of Kuma Games was to convince the people of the world and Iraq that what the U.S. does in Iraq and other countries is good and acceptable.”
Needless to say, neither Hekmati’s alleged confession nor his conviction means the charges are true. Rather his arrest is better seen as yet another indicator of the escalating geopolitical tensions between Tehran and Washington. Still, the incident highlights the extent to which video games and international politics have increasingly intersected in recent years. FULL POST
You probably woke up this morning to realize the Internet is totally screwy.
Is it the online apocalypse? Not so much. Google, Wikipedia, Boing Boing and others have gone dark, along with thousands of others, who are protesting two anti-piracy bills that are up for debate in the U.S. Congress.
It's a debate that's pitted the Web against Washington. And if the goal of these protests was to get people talking, that sure seems to have worked, with every media organization on the planet talking about piracy today.
Many of these sites are using creative techniques to bring attention to the two bills – one called SOPA, the other PIPA – and making very clear their viewpoint on it.
Before you panic, read our quick-and-dirty guide to these online protests. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Nao Matsukata is a Managing Partner at Six Trees Partners, LLC, and Josh Bourne is the President of the Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse (CADNA).
By Nao Matsukata and Josh Bourne – Special to CNN
What’s in a domain name? What’s in it for the everyday user of the Internet? O
n January 12, 2012, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names Numbers (ICANN) – the organization charged with managing the domain name system – will implement a policy that will infinitely expand Internet real estate, making it more confusing and creating more opportunities for fraud and threats to national security.
Beginning this Thursday, ICANN will open an application process that may inspire, according to Internet experts, anywhere between 500 and 1,000 applications for new generic top-level domains, or gTLDs. These are the extensions that appear to the right of the “dot” in web addresses. Currently, there are 22 gTLDs; the ones of most us know are .COM, .GOV, or .ORG. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Martin Ford is the author of The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology, and the Economy of the Future. For more, visit Project Syndicate or follow it on Facebook and Twitter.
By Martin Ford, Project Syndicate
Nearly all economic forecasts agree that high unemployment in much of the developed world will most likely persist for years to come. But could even this dire projection underestimate future unemployment rates?
As improvements in computers, robotic technologies, and other forms of job automation continue to accelerate, more workers are certain to be displaced, and job creation will become even more challenging. Most economists dismiss concern that this might lead to long-term structural unemployment. Indeed, the idea often elicits outright derision. The conservative media in the United States recently mocked President Barack Obama for suggesting that automation might hurt employment growth. But Obama was right to raise the question. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Richard Fontaine is a Senior Advisor at the Center for a New American Security. The following post was originally published in The Diplomat, a stellar international current-affairs magazine for the Asia-Pacific region.
By Richard Fontaine, The Diplomat
A new report by an arm of the U.S. Director of National Intelligence confirms what officials have privately lamented for several years: the United States is the target of a vast array of cyber attacks, many focused on stealing intellectual property, originating in China.
The report highlights the costs that worry American officials and corporate leaders, including the loss of expensive technology, the theft of military applications, and the undermining of the information-intensive U.S. economy. Indeed, vast economic espionage, conducted largely through cyber-operations, can diminish the United States’ strategic competitiveness. But there’s a flip side to Beijing’s cyber offensive – the strategic costs it imposes on China itself.
To be sure, China isn’t a solitary actor, and Russia and other countries are routinely fingered as major sources of online intrusions and hacking. But in recent years, a multitude of U.S. corporations, universities, government agencies, and other institutions – to say nothing of their counterparts in places like Japan, South Korea, and Europe – have suffered cyber attacks alleged to have originated in China. Indeed, the new report calls Chinese actors “the world’s most active and persistent perpetrators of economic espionage.” FULL POST