THU 27 - 2 - 2020
Date: Oct 31, 2018
Source: The Daily Star
The era of cyber insecurity
Hiba Huneini

The last two centuries have witnessed four waves of paradigm shifts in the nature of our economic and social systems. The first paradigm shift took place around 1760 at the moment when we discovered the power of steam and invented a production mechanism that deployed the power machines in manufacturing and mass production. This wave was called the Industrial Revolution. The latest paradigm shift took place in the fusion of cyber and physical systems in different fields like robotics, quantum computing, nanotechnology, the “internet of things,” Big Data, fifth generation wireless technologies and fully autonomous vehicles. This wave is defined as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Every wave has had its own risks and challenges. One of the major challenges of our time is cybersecurity.

Today cybercrimes have cost our global economy approximately $1.5 trillion, and this amount is expected to double by 2030 in the most optimistic scenarios. Some scenarios predict a total loss of $6 trillion, according to the Herjavec Group’s cybercrime report. More than 70 percent of the total cybercrime revenues are from ransomware due to hacking and data theft. More than $500 billion are revenues from trade secrets thefts.

The world is moving toward more aggressive cybersecurity policies to face the immense challenges that cybercrime poses to our society. The U.S., the world’s most-targeted country for cybercrime, has converted to a system of tit-for-tat engagement with different countries. The new policy is mostly an offensive and aggressive scheme against cybercrimes.

This month is considered National Cyber Security Awareness Month initially created to ensure close collaboration between the U.S. government and industry in order to ensure online safety for American citizens.

The Arab world has realized the critical effects of cybercrime as it moves slowly but surely into the realm of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Recently, cyberattacks have been conducted against different Gulf companies. Therefore, Kuwait hosted Cybersecurity Week for the Arab Region from Oct. 21-25. One of the key activities of the week was the Regional Cybersecurity Summit under the title “Cybersecurity Readiness in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” The summit’s overarching objective was to address the best preventive strategies to counteract cyberthreats. The goals of the summit were to foster exchange of information, ideas and solutions among Arab countries; identify the critical areas of intervention; promote cross-border governmental cooperation; and enhance the information security sector.

There are different policy prescriptions that national cybersecurity policymakers need to consider. According to RAND Corporation, there are six cybersecurity priority actions that national governments need to build their cyber decision-makers’ capacity on: governments need to formulate national cybersecurity strategy, a system for incident response, critical infrastructure protection, crisis management, cyber defense systems, and communication redundancy.

Lebanon is clearly suffering from cybercrimes, and it is directly impacting the safety of the business sector and the resilience of its society. Cybercrimes in Lebanon have targeted businesses with trade theft and citizens with privacy breaches and cyberbullying.

The government has been working incrementally in building a system for fighting cybercrime, but still a lot needs to be done. In 2005, the Lebanese Bureau for Cybercrime and Intellectual Property was established and hosted in the Telecommunications Ministry. In 2012, the Office of the Minister of State for Administrative Reform issued the Lebanese national cybersecurity policy guidelines a policy toolkit for the protection of governmentally owned information with the aim of promoting an environment of trust in government transactions. This year, Prime Minister Saad Hariri initiated the national strategy to combat cybercrime, which aims at formulating a set of harmonized government interventions to protect Lebanon and its society from the woes of cyberattacks.

Although it is empirically impossible to accurately predict the future of technology and the impact that cyber-physical integration will have on our lives, recent trends imply that we are going to live in a world where there is no line between our online and offline lives, and the continuous interaction with machines and data is the law of the land.

Therefore, it is the task of various stakeholders in the Arab world and Lebanon to think progressively of the tools and mechanisms that form a cybersecurity and defense arsenal that could possibly increase the next generations’ sense of trust and security.

Hiba Huneini is manager of the youth and civic engagement program at the Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Human Development.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 31, 2018, on page 3.

The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the Arab Network for the Study of Democracy
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