Russia’s alleged state-sponsored hacking of US political organizations, including the DNC, as part of an apparent attempt to influence the US political system, has sparked numerous controversies, even though the hacking itself is not particularly threatening. Revelations about Yahoo’s record-setting data breach of one billion user accounts represents a milestone for the information age in terms of the scope of hacking, yet it was received as old news. The size of the attack may have been massive, but the hackers did little in terms of introducing a new threat. The problem is the same and the need to solve that problem is the same.
The ongoing and successful targeting of political organizations, corporations in all industries, and government departments, including the US Office of Personnel, have demonstrated the vulnerability of everyone. Meanwhile, the use of hacking by Russia, as well as national security agencies like the CIA, NSA, and FBI, remind the world that everyone with the capacity is hacking without proper governance limiting their activities. Over the past few years, cyber security has grown to be a major concern. In response, government and private entities have done a great deal to help address internet security threats, yet it clearly has not been enough.
Although the internet was born out of defense spending, those who helped create the World Wide Web were so idealistic about the nature of information technology that the internet was never designed to be secure, e.g. the Heart Bleed Bug. Because the 1990’s were defined by peace and stability that allowed the International Community to focus on economic development, while terrorism was considered the most significant national security threat in the 2000’s, the economy grew to be thoroughly reliant on the internet despite inherent security flaws. This has forced individual users, businesses, and countries to react to cyber security in a piecemeal approach instead of mustering a push to actually secure the internet.
In terms of governance, security issues require an effort to “police” and “regulate” industries. Today, emerging and persistent crises around the world make it more likely criminals, terrorists, and governments will seek to use the internet as a weapon instead of a tool for the betterment of mankind, yet the internet remains largely unpoliced and ungoverned. Proper structure is needed to promote stability and growth, yet the internet lacks structure where it needs it, which is why it is a lawless place. At best, the US government has tried to somewhat regulate internet providers through the FCC, but even the preservation of net neutrality is threatened by self-serving interests of internet providers.
The decision by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under the Obama Administration to treat internet service providers as utilities is one example where individual rights and interests are being protected through proper regulation and governance. By treating all internet traffic equally, ISPs are required to improve internet access for all, instead of forcing consumers to compete on ever increasing prices for slow growing bandwidth. That is, if they want to compete with their fellow telecommunications companies as they must now do, they will have offer better services at competitive prices.
Abandoning the notion of “net neutrality” would create a perverse incentive for telecommunications companies to limit their investment in additional bandwidth, i.e. they would be able to pressure consumers who need faster internet access to pay more by limiting the access of those who are not willing, or able, to pay a premium . That said, critics are correct when they proclaim increased regulation will add costs. The costs associated with enforcement and adherence to regulations are real; however, the benefits of regulations are also real. In the case of the internet, regulations need to abe implemented before the harm is done by the telecommunication industry’s drive to charge more for access to the internet is fully realized.
Furthermore, any country (community) lacking a strong “constitutional” structure, where freedoms and rights are broadly defined alongside limits for authorities and the structure of governance (law), has been corrupted, has resulted in the abuse of residents (users), and ultimately failed, whether that nation was an authoritarian regime or a democratic republic. In terms of regulation, it is, therefore, never enough to rely on businesses to self-regulate or provide for their own cyber security. It is also the responsibility of government to defend itself and its population. Consequently, there is a desperate need for the internet to have a governing structure capable of regulating cyber commerce, policing cyber crime, and protecting cyber liberties.
Regrettably, there is no balance on the internet when it comes to regulation and freedom, which means the internet is unpoliced and lacks a “constitutional” structure to provide for the rights of individuals, businesses, governments, and other organizations. Not only must businesses, governments, individual criminals be restricted from what they can do with the internet and user data, governments must also be given a well-defined structure for addressing national interests when it comes to information technology. Just as tech firms must resist the intrusion of government, government must regulate the activities of tech firms and would-be criminal.
Because the internet is the World Web Wide and relies on the policies of all governments, the International Community as a whole has a major role in determining how the internet is governed. Consequently, the internet must have some form of regulation and protection offered by a consensus of world governments, if the internet is to remain free for all the Peoples of the world. The internet is the product of international cooperation, thus cyber security can only be properly addressed through international cooperation. Unfortunately, the world nor the governments of the world seem to be focused on this treat to modern-day life.
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