National Security Risks risks in CyberSpace

    Although a globally experienced pandemic has sparked a lot of shared experiences and challenges across the globe, it has not been enough to distract from the prevailing domestic issues being experienced. Crises like this can be great unifiers when countries cooperate to combat a common and pervasive threat. However, the invisible nature of the virus means it does not quite inspire the type of reactions given to natural disasters, stock market crashes and the preservation of the planet. Instead, it is almost as if domestic issues are even in greater focus, because individuals and governments have had to spend more time with and catering for the local community. Curfews, social distancing measures and lockdowns are just some of the policies instituted that restrict the previous freedom of unlimited movement and interaction. It is unsurprising then that a lot of citizens turn online for the usual social interactions they would pursue. More importantly, businesses have had to take their operations online as well, while many citizens work from home. Unfortunately, this does not mean usual threats and challenges are on pause. In fact, it brings one issue into sharp focus: cybersecurity. 

    There is no time like the present to re-examine how threats in cyberspace can affect individuals, societies, and even governments who use portable storage such as Go Mini’s portable storage pods. Of course, one would not think to compare this kind of threat on the level of nuclear threats, towers collapsing and human genocide, but it still considered one of the top ten risks facing the world according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report. Additionally, in 2018, the United States took the biggest hit from cyber security threats in terms of financial damage, and has continued to pay ever since. The cost of cyber attacks was estimated to be over 13.7 billion U.S. dollars. In 2021, the amount budgeted for government IT expenditure  is expected to surpass $92 billion.

    The truth about these incidents is that these threats are all related to data protection. Data protection is important because breaches can lead to unauthorized sharing of personal identifying data and correspondence about individuals, companies and organizations that would otherwise be confidential. Criminals in this sphere find creative ways to launch their attacks, and the low ability of the average unsuspecting citizen to fully understand the threats makes them susceptible to becoming victims of attacks.

    On an individual level, for the average citizen, data protection means making sure that their social media is safe from hackers. For instance, quite recently, WhatsApp updated its privacy policy and amid the misinformation, alternative apps like Signal and Telegram saw a surge in users. Customers are clearly aware that protecting their data is important but they seem quite unclear on the best ways to ensure this is the case.

    On a corporate level, ransomware attacks are more common. These attacks happen when unscrupulous individuals find ways to access and encrypt user data, preventing the owner from retrieving their files. In these cases, the owner does not usually regain access until they pay handsomely for it.

    The issue even poses a threat to Governments. There was great concern for election technology protection in 2019 when an internet services company in Louisiana was victim to a cyber attack that gave criminals access to the Louisiana Secretary of State along with nine court clerk offices only one week before the election. Additionally, in January 2020, a ransomware attack in Tillamook County, Ore compromised the ability of registration personnel to access voter registration data while they were preparing for the Primaries in May. 

    In at least two instances, the government has felt the need to interfere in what was seen as possible legitimate threats to citizen data on a mass scale.

    In the first case, a deal put forward by the Trump administration for Chinese-owned ByteDance to sell TikTok is being reviewed. The concern is that the platform could compromise and risk U.S data. 

    In another case, the highly anticipated fifth generation of cellular network for mobile communication or 5g technology launch has been stalled by the government. The concern is that if Chinese owned companies like Huawei is allowed  to install key elements of the network, they might pose a data security threat of international proportions by spying on the traffic passing through the networks they install.

    It is clear that cyber threats are quite capable of destroying the lives of individuals and having a mass negative impact on a particular, targeted group of people through data breaches and even a ransomware attack. The attack on election systems show that concerns about foreign interference in political processes are quite legitimate. In the era of 5g technology and polarizing politics, if there is a single issue that political parties need to find common ground on, it is cyber security. It is as legitimate a threat to democracy as any physical attack.