#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.