#Digitaldiplomacy and #Cybersecurity on a Rough Patch in 2017.
The last several years have seen an explosion of digital diplomacy tools and techniques. This is driven by an ongoing growth in technology platforms; and social media combined with the increased numbers of world Governments adopting open data and open government principles. There has also been a parallel explosion in fake social media, fake news and fake information being propagated globally.
The effect of the combined forces is that cybersecurity is now playing an even more vital role in digital diplomacy. Where digital diplomacy just a few years back was between recognized principals of Governments, now there are lots of other players trying to make that communication much more failure prone.
Additionally we now have leaders using Twitter and other tools to communicate directly with each other and or to directly go around the news media. Just in the first few months of 2017 alone, we have witnessed multiple world leaders using Twitter to speak in ways that are different from the stated policies of their countries, or to put pressure on other countries through this most public of mediums.
There have been recent successes and failures. I wrote about some of these a few years back. We have also seen a tremendous growth in what I call “anti digital diplomacy” thru the concerted use of fake social media accounts, fake news websites, and fake statistics designed to make the role of real diplomats much harder. While some of this is innocuous, much of it is organized and part of larger cyber deception plots being run by larger nation states.
Western European countries are currently experiencing the same types of digital attacks on their electoral systems, including the use of selective leaking of compromised materials that the US experienced in 2016. Which means that hacking, and hackers have been deeply involved too. One does not get compromised materials without someone first doing the exfiltration of the information from its original home.
Which brings the question of what role cybersecurity needs to play in digital diplomacy? It is a dynamic situation now with asymmetrical threats and increased attack surface area affecting the very direct communications that digital diplomacy allows.
Governments, Diplomats and the media alike need to be trained and continually updated on how to spot fake accounts, fake news, fake websites, and how to ensure only officially verified information is being transmitted through the digital diplomacy channels. Additionally steps need to be taken on dealing with constituents and the news media to ensure that fake information is put down quickly with the truth and facts to back it up.
Diplomats across the globe have already been caught up in re-tweeting fake news or getting trolled by fake accounts. But there needs to be a verification role too, that is played with the public, especially in terms of proving the falsity of fake information being purposely distributed.
Further, steps need to be taken to lock down accounts with two factor authentication, very strong passwords and strict internal organizational controls on who uses the digital diplomacy tools and how. Cybersecurity needs to be incorporated into every decision and every level of communications, both internally and externally.
Finally, Governments and Companies around the world need to adopt a rapid response routine to deal with both fake news and fake information coming from non-official sources, as well as from official sources or official twitter accounts. The World now has several leaders who seem to want to try to use Twitter to go around their local politics and news media and or tell the world an un-true or incoherent story. If Diplomats are not ready to respond to falsities or cyber-attack driven leaks quickly, then they will be playing a constant game of catch up. True for the news media and global citizens alike.
When you think of Cyber Security you probably think about your iphone getting hacked, or your email, or your companies servers, or your credit card, or bank card or health care, or banking, or government information plus so many others…
But did you ever stop to think about how a huge chunk of all the data populating all those things actually gets there? Not in the sense of how Google asks prospective employees to describe how the internet works. But close. Think Space.
Satellites are massive growth industry, for both government and business alike. We have scaled globally from a situation 20 years ago where only a handful of countries could afford to mount in orbit operations on even one satellite.
Now there are literally thousands of satellites in space with more and more getting launched into either permanent or semi permanent orbits — along with resulting real space junk and debris following closely along.
There is a correlation of increased launches with smaller launch packages, increasingly smaller and lighter satellite platforms and lower cost; with massive increased consumption and transport of data in both up and down link; and other bands.
All of this has led to a reset of the cyber security needs surrounding ground stations, launch facilities, terrestrial platforms, satellites, rockets, and of course the data. There are multiple types of data flowing into the typical modern communications satellite. Up-link, down-link controls and management software, then data payloads of voice, video, data, etc + then often reversed in direction again. Add to this the security levels, the control levels and maintenance levels — and there is a digital river of information coming in and out of every satellite, ground station and in between.
This is one of the major targets for global cyber war efforts by governments as well as cartel hacker groups and other groups seeking only power and information to then bring money.
One of the key weakpoints is the people on the ground and their BYOD (Bring your own device) methods + practices – whether sanctioned or not.
Along the same lines is the social engineering side of hacking and cyber war and how people’s pictures, social media posts, location tags, and other digital exhausts can be combined in a detailed matrix for an attacker to figure out organizational patterns, phrases, colloquialisms and other ways to use psychology against us.
Another key weakpoint is that many of the cyber security protocols designed for this global data transfer every milli-second is that they are simply outdated and not up to the task of modern efforts to hack and crack this technology and its safeguards and firewalls.
Follow my remarks in a few more weeks to hear more on the very real risks being posed by the explosion in satellites and data flowing between Earth and Space. Indeed, Global Cyber Security is on Earth + Space.
We live in a hyper-connected world that brings the globe to you; and you and your family to the globe at equally fast speeds. While on one hand, any one of us can access the internet, through any number of tools, platforms, technology and software and almost any combination too. But on the other hand the internet can and does access us, and all of our information, every minute of every day. Probably more than you and your family access the internet.
One thing that is growing in need and in reality is the international and cross cultural aspects of Cybersecurity. For example, businesses and governments alike in the US and in Israel face similar challenges within similar robust telecom and economic environments. 15 years ago the idea of US and Israeli Cybersecurity companies working together seemed remote or exotic. Speak to anyone in Cybersecurity, and it won’t take long for the Israeli Cybersecurity community to come up. True for Venture Capital in Israel too.
Dr. Orit Mossinson, a Venture Capitalist + founder of Dalai VC – A VC firm that specializes in Cybersecurity – had this to say: “Bringing Israeli Cybersecurity companies through capitalization to becoming the leading edge of how to combat cyberwar efforts, is just beginning. Over the next few years there is going to be massive growth in this unique space.”
My company Digijaks is constantly working with businesses and governments on Cybersecurity. What applies to big business or governments applies to people and families mostly too. That is true in the USA, Israel, UK, Canada, Japan, Singapore, etc, or any nation considered 1st world with full internet access.
Within as long as it takes to blink an eye, you or your family can get caught up in a Cybersecurity breach leading to a Reputation and search breach. It does not take much, and is not the sole domain of big companies being targeted. Ask yourself, do you have wifi? Is it secure? Do you have devices? Run a business? Pay taxes? Do Online Banking? Any of the above could be the entry into your life by a hacker.
This might sound hard to believe in the era of downloadable feature films in a few seconds and the huge amounts of data coming “down” the “pipes” to our devices. But for every bit of data coming in; we are pouring it right back through apps, games, web browsing, file uploading, liking, tweeting, sharing, and videos and not to mention the IoT — as in your tweeting fridge and internet sharing toaster. Don’t even get started on the lack of cybersecurity for IoT globally. Because there is none. Or very little of note.
There just is not any in most of those devices or apps yet. Don’t kid yourself or mistakenly think you or your families are not being monitored and watched through the IoT. The more devices you have connected, the scale of magnitude of potential monitoring and watching is exponential.
Several years ago the digital exhaust of the average first world person with access to the internet was less than 1000 data points per person roughly. Now scale upwards and it is closer to 20,000 data points per person in their digital exhaust. How many companies are tracking these, and or reselling them to other groups? How many governments? How many hacking groups? Extortionists? Kidnappers? Digital Money Robbers?
When we get invited to address groups about Cybersecurity, they always want to know about their specific devices. Is this safe? Is that dangerous? Cybersecurity is one part hardened data, encrypted data and secure data transport. It is also one part human. Increasingly so, with socially engineered attacks such as phishing and drive by malware hosted on social media or in apps. The human element is about training employees, about families working with each other to be private and safe online and is about the fact that humans will and can get tricked by their own emotions and desires. This is what makes social engineered attacks so pernicious.
They are not about weak data points or lack of encryption. They are about our human frailty and how it gets exploited by digital tormenters.
Think about it. What if a Stuxnet-like custom designed cyber war tool; were to take out all the SCADA devices in a particular city? Or take out a particular industry like oil and gas or electrical generation; or at 50 hospitals at once? The problem is every unsecured SCADA device is also listed in multiple places to be publicly found on the internet, not even the dark web. 7 million + devices, terminals, industrial control centers, power plants, factories, utility grids and transportation and information networks are to be found just by searching.
Bring the best of the best together and create new environments in which they can work together to stop a global scourge of cybersecurity breaches and the resultant reputation and search breaches that follow every attack. True in the USA and true in Israel. The world is looking at the very beginnings of a 3rd World War. This one is invisible mostly, harms people in real life sometimes, yet is being conducted by numerous countries, companies, and criminals all at once against each other. Now is the time to start combining the best of the best and the brightest.
It is, as is so commonly mentioned in the media: “That Time of Year Again.” Yup. Packages. Shiny New Things. Cool Toys for the Kids and kid-adults alike.
It is also the time of year of increased cyber crime attempts aimed at retailers.
Add also the time of year when more families and organizations introduce new varieties of malware, ad-malware, viruses, worms, bad bots and devices that phone “home” into our homes, workplaces and civic spaces.
How? Because many devices are coming pre-loaded with malware. How many parents look into the workings of a cheap tablet before handing it off to the kids? How many people are checking new apps to see the permissions being requested on those new devices and old ones too?
Do you know what your connected devices are doing this holiday season? Perhaps it is not just calling the North Pole, but indeed calling “home” with your life information. This applies to talking teddy bears, connected fridges, Iot devices of every stripe, but not to mention your phone, tablet, smartwatch, car.
Cybersecurity used to be be the geek’s eagle’s nest. it was hard to understand, hard to get to, hard to see the impact and need often times. If there was a CIO or CISO, he/she would not be in the board room too often, and usually the budgets were the first to go in any budget change environment. But the cycle switched. Now we are in the opposite cycle. The CIO and CISO are ruling the roost and commanding serious budgets and attention. But being missed in all the excitement is this:
The Crossover from pure cyber crime to real world crime from the same instance.
It is safe to say, times have changed. Now – Cybersecurity has become a word known in almost any home where there is digital connectivity. Time and time again, we are offered proof that cybersecurity now encompasses reputation management; active control of search and social media as well as the traditional hardening of data access points, transport points, and login authorities. Cybersecurity itself has become such a buzzword that it threatens to create a numbness for people hearing it and responding to it.
Recently Digijaks has worked with multiple clients who have faced the crossover from Cyber Security to Real Life Security. It is our recent experience that shows us that law enforcement is *mostly* unprepared for cyber crossover attacks and does not yet have the substantial depth of understanding of the relationship between social media, cyber security and real life people.
The connections are impossible to overlook. What starts as a cyber threat, like impersonation of another; brand or trademark attacks, social media memes and fake social media sock puppet accounts — can now easily and does easily cross over into real world crimes.
The real world crimes escalate too, often in parallel with online escalation. In our recent experience in dealing with the crossover, most law enforcement agencies of *all levels* are simply not prepared to cope with this reality, and have few to zero people in place who are trained investigators and can assist the public, or corporations or utilities or governments with cyber cross overs.
Digijaks CEO Alan W. Silberberg is advising both the company’s clients and law enforcement agencies to take these “cyber cross over” events seriously. There is growing evidence amounting that shows that real world crimes are becoming easier in some ways and can be facilitated through initial cyber intrusions, whether phishing, trolling or direct digital attacks.
This is leading people who were previously *only* cyber criminals or terrorists to become real world ones too, often at little to no monetary cost. We see this a true emerging threat, as yet mostly being unaddressed either at the Federal or State levels, and a threat that is most acutely faced in local communities who very definitely are not prepared.
Reputation. Is hard to get, hard to maintain, hard to control; especially in an era of hacking by governments and criminals alke.
Cybersecurity is something many people long put off as a back burner decision, or lower funded priority, but in actuality is a critical need, now at the forefront of many leaders’ thinking due to the sheer number and audacity of the hacks from 2013 forward. There is a distinct triangulation between reputation control and cyber security and search results. The more things get hacked, the more information flows onto websites, both for sale, and for free, and the more the search engines index these results. Digijaks’ CEO Alan W Silberberg has written about this triangulation before as it relates to cyber security and how we all need to look at the this inter-relationship, and it’s effects on all of us.
The recent OPM hacks were so huge, the numbers are simply staggering that it is hard to process for most people, especially “regular people” who feel this does not affect them or their friends or family.
But in addition to the 21+ million social security numbers that were stolen in the OPM hack, so were over 1.1 million sets of people’s fingerprints. People who serve the US Government in all sorts of capacities, some secret, some not. So in addition to the notion of identity theft through the means we have become unfortunately accustomed to, like credit, social security and personally identifiable information (PII) — we now have to contend with the theft of biometrics.
It means every citizen, whether they believe the OPM hacks relate to them or not, have to start taking on steps to protect themselves. When a nation state can combine vast databases of personal information with biometrics for some of those same people; it means that nation state, or proxies or vendors it sells to could become one of us through surreptitious methods. It means identity theft is potential on a massive scale, as is exploiting people through their information in security clearance documents or medical records.
It means the push to make encryption weaker or illegal should actually be reversed to become a push to make encryption a standard for citizens; and one that is supported by our Government ln light of attacks and theft of information from tens of millions of US Citizens. The US Government through the Congress should adopt stringent laws making it hard not to encrypt personal information.
It means, think about what information you put in the cloud. Think about what information you put in social media. What information you never put into digital form. It means think about carrying a second and or even third form of identity in case you are ever challenged with not being you.