Sunday, September 1, 2013

Cyber space risk put in a long-term perspective

As i write this blog looking out of the aircraft window, 36000 feet above the Arabian Sea dense rain clouds stretch for miles creating one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen. The beauty is apparent because we are flying above the clouds and not through it. For those short lived moments when we did fly through clouds our vision was narrowed by the brilliant white fog and rattled by sporadic turbulence.

Living in cyber space is akin to flying through dense clouds. Beyond the narrow perspective of your browser window, there is very little that a normal user comprehends. To use electricity, we do not need to know how it is generated but we all somehow know that electricity can kill. Cyberspace is slightly different, we all know how to use cyberspace but few know its threats and risks.

 Why, because until now cyber space has not killed anyone, it has behaved like the proverbial pickpocket and stolen a few hundred dollars no more. Or perhaps it is because our attention is on more physical crimes such as rape, murder and other sorts of violent crime. Or maybe it is because big businesses make more money from selling physical security equipment such as guns, X-ray machines and metal detectors than from computer security software.

 Whatever be the reason, we should not forget that slowly and steadily this world is moving towards complete reliance on inter-networked information systems. Everything we take for granted will be setup on an integrated global networks. A network in which the knocking down of a single node will rattle a few more. As data volumes rise the increasing complexity of managing information estates will see a fair share of unintentional and intentional glitches. Some will hurt if essentials like electricity, hospital and communication are downed. On the anvil are driverless cars and robots with the ability to out think humans.

 Mankind is entering a new age. The Internet has also changed the social fabric of the entire world through it ability to allow individuals rapidly disseminate audio and video content based on localised or personalised events and ideologies. Unlike the real world cyberspace has a wide reach and long lived memories. Whatever information is put there stays there and can be seen by many others. Since social networking has become a facet of everyday life, we tolerate some of its problems like cyber bullying, defamation and so on. Today, we are in a primitive stage. We are affected by risks but try and cope with it in the old fashioned way. The seniors among us may not understand it as well as children do. But this will change. We need to alter our lens to what is to come, a new age with new requirements and new rules. The learning of the past which have helped us to frame laws and rules of conduct will provide us a foundation but cannot be applied as it is or even with minor tweaks. We need to think afresh.

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