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Cybersecurity, hacking and influencing elections – Jamaica Observer

Cybersecurity, hacking and influencing elections

Sunday, December 11, 2016    

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Not unexpectedly, cybersecurity over confidential information stored on computers and transmitted over the Internet is a growing issue.


Government and private data storage and transmission are vulnerable to ‘hackers’ ranging from individuals motivated by perverse satisfaction, companies stealing technology and intellectual property for profit, to governments involved in espionage and counter-espionage.


Cyberwarfare capabilities, which involve collecting intelligence and penetrating national security computer networks, are aimed at ‘exfiltrating’ information that could be used to disrupt network-based logistics, communications, and commercial activities.


So far, hackers have broken into the computer systems of the US Army, Pentagon, Federal Reserve, NASA, and the US Missile Defence Agency. The number and sophistication of individual hackers disrupting both private and government computer systems was revealed when private hackers forced Fiat Chrysler to recall 1.4 million vehicles.

The issue gained greater attention when hackers allegedly working for the Russian Government exposed Democratic party e-mail with the aim of influencing the US presidential elections in favour of Mr Donald Trump. This disclosure by the Central Intelligence Agency and other security agencies has aroused strong feelings in the US and indeed across the world.


Cybersecurity has become a top issue because of the stealing of confidential US national security data, which were then made public directly or through the Julian Assange-led WikiLeaks and Mr Edward Snowden. The US has sought to curtail these leaks by seeking to capture and prosecute the guilty individuals.


US concern is not limited to individual whistle-blowers, but has tended to concentrate on China. The Obama Administration has frequently accused China of operating a massive and systemic programme of cyber-espionage encompassing government and private computer and information systems.


The US Government specifically accuses the Chinese of targeting private economic data and sensitive national security information, including defence contractors. The suspicion is mutual as both the US Department of Defence and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army view cyberspace as a new domain of conflict.


China is regarded as the single greatest risk to the security of American military and commercial technologies.


The preoccupation with China as an enemy has diverted attention from the activities of Russia. The US and China have agreed to hold regular talks over what has been aptly called ‘cyber détente’. Russia needs to be involved in these talks, and more importantly, there needs to be a multilateral process so that all countries are involved and that the more vulnerable can be protected by international action.


There is no issue that has risen so quickly and aroused so much distrust of the indispensable cyber realm. Cybersecurity is new. Its complexity is not adequately understood, and many do not have the technical and human capacity to protect themselves.


Jamaica does have a national cybersecurity strategy and policy, but as a country we are struggling with the pervasiveness and complexity of this phenomenon. It would behove us to prepare ourselves.


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