Looking Ahead: What to Expect in the Cyber Realm

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Arto Väisänen

Mr Andy Bates, Executive Director, United Kingdom, Europe, Middle East & Africa, Global Cyber Alliance, introduced the Global Cyber Alliance, and then stated how cybercrime has overtaken normal crime in terms of economic value. Despite the increasing economic risk of cybercrime, he argued that ‘cybercrime is just crime’, pointing out that it is crime adapting to modern tools. In his opinion, the responses should not basically differ too much from the measures taken to address other forms of crime. He highlighted that cybercrime is usually serial in nature, with many criminals potentially using the same vulnerability and being repeat offenders. He discussed the human psychological aspect in the context of phishing and spoofing emails as well as structural issues with the Internet.

He presented a tool called DMARC, which enables individuals and companies to register domains that then establish a handshake between actors to monitor email trustworthiness. In addition, he presented the Internet Immune System, a blacklist given to top level Internet service providers (ISPs) to track pages which contain malware. He argued that ISPs should work towards cleaning up the internet for individuals.

Lastly Bates outlined future scenarios, focussing mostly on the importance of sharing of information across private and public sectors, together with measures that would seek to prevent duplication. In addition to this he mentioned how reporting about cybercrime could be centralised. As a concluding remark he pointed out that individuals need to use common sense and intelligence when addressing cybercrime.

Dr Gustav Lindstrom, Head of the Emerging Security Challenges Programme, Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GSCP), gave a presentation which focussed on the issues and trends for future consideration in the field of cybersecurity. Firstly, he stressed that raising awareness needs to be a constant process. Due to its constantly changing nature, cybercrime should be seen as an emerging threat.

Lindstrom’s second point focussed on the key aspects of evolving technology and services which remain beneficial for us but also pose security challenges. He discussed many developments such as cloud computing, as the cloud is an attractive target for attacks. He described how the cloud can be used to hide malware. In addition to cloud computing, he mentioned how big data, through injecting false data, poses security threats in addition to the privacy issues. He also discussed the issue of 3D printing which can be used to circumvent existing measures, while providing potentially dangerous tools. Circumventing existing measures is also a risk posed by distributed ledger technologies. As a final aspect of this, artificial intelligence and machine learning, despite their ground-breaking advantages, run the risk of being misused and compromised.

The Internet of Things (IoT) can provide benefits, but it also opens the door for many new potential threats. Lindstrom pointed out how the shift in states’ cyber defence and offence poses a challenge. He argued that an increasing number of countries have developed capabilities to move from defence to offence, with roughly 30 countries having dual capabilities, but this number is hazy as is the boundary between defence and offence. As such, Lindstrom suggested, offensive cyber operations will likely increase and cyber weapons might be updated at a fast pace, especially in terms of delivery mechanisms. As a final point, while there are differences in state capabilities, all countries will try to seek to utilise zero-day vulnerabilities to their advantage. He then concluded his presentation by pointing out the increasing role of the private sector in the field, which is not only due to financial aspects but also due to the proliferation of public-private partnerships. 

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