With contributions from Elma Levy, Krishna Ramaswamy, and Aditya Chebolu. Excerpted from the book Cyber‐Defense VS. Cyber‐Democracy VS. Cyber‐Development (CYBER‐D3): Challenges, Opportunities and Implications for Policy and Practice (Springer, forthcoming), Editor-in-chief:  Elias G. Carayannis.

Cyber – that is, anything having to do with the Internet – has evolved significantly since the Internet became a part of our daily lives. It is having significant impact of the development of nations, the democratizations of nations, on the defense of nations. In this ZapFlash, we’re projecting the future in three areas:

  • Development – Countries that will embrace Cyber will propel forward at a much more rapid pace and will become leaders relative to other countries.
  • Democratization – It is not easy to many countries to deal with the open debates, but countries that can adapt and accept them will become more democratic and over time, more and more countries will eventually be able to achieve similar levels of openness.
  • Defense – Cyberdefense remains a significant challenge. Countries will continue with the struggle to defend infrastructure and citizens. Some countries will be more successful and it will allow them to be more open to development and democratization.

As with any new technology, development and adoption begins slowly and grows exponentially, and so it is with the development of Cyber. The impact of Cyber power between those countries that embrace it vs. those that suppress it will become increasingly clear in resulting differences in levels of growth and income per capita.

CD1: Cyber Development

Initially, Cyber activity primarily took place in the developed countries which had the better infrastructure to support its development, but as the cost and complexity of the technology rapidly decreased, Cyber communication became possible for anyone with a smartphone anywhere around the world. As a result, over the last decade the developing world has shown tremendous advancement in the use of Cyber technologies.

However, one of the critical requirements for a country to migrate to a democracy is an educated population; here as well the Internet plays a significant role by bringing low-cost education to the people wherever they are. The clear implication for the future is that it will be significantly more difficult for controlling leadership to keep their people uninformed and undereducated. As the population becomes better informed and educated it will become more demanding of equality and change.

In addition to education, social media will evolve significantly and continue to increasingly enable dialog among citizens, ultimately overcoming the barriers and controls constructed by their leadership, and this, in turn, will force leadership to listen to the people. Social media are essentially Cyber communication approaches for the purpose of connecting people around the world to share social information.

The development of social media have led to significant social developments around the world, both positive as well as troublesome. For example, in the Middle East social media played a significant role in the overthrow of dictatorial regimes by allowing Cyberspace to become the “place” for people to organize, clearly a positive use of Cyberspace; on the other hand, the presence of electronic information, much of it sensitive, has allowed the Internet to become a Wild West with significant crimes such as fraud, identity theft, and data theft that would not have been possible otherwise.

In the developed countries, with minimal  suppression of free flow of information, development will continue as well. In these countries, because Internet technologies are even more available, we will undoubtedly see significant improvements in tools and techniques available for  people to both influence, and partake in, the political process.  As soon as people learn about any proposed legislation or discussion groups, they will gather in Cyberspace to discuss the merits of the proposed idea, and the more controversial, the louder and more involved the discussion will be. Inevitably the government has to be responsive. This process gives influence to the people, where it belongs.

CD2: Cyber Democratization

Cyber Democratization challenges focus on the relationship among some dictatorial governments, ruling parties and the citizens of these countries. On one hand, use of the Internet and social media is encouraged, however, communications and activities are frequently monitored and, if unfavorable in the eyes of the powerful, communication is censored and curbed in other ways. Even so, in the past few years, unique social events have taken place. New communication technologies have made it possible for people to meet virtually and organize, which has led to the increasing call for democratic involvement and the overthrow of old dictatorial regimes.

For example, the Arab Spring uprisings have resulted in the ouster of leaders in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, and changes in the governing policies of various Middle Eastern and African countries such as Jordan, Bahrain, Algeria, and Sudan. Though social media (Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, and YouTube in particular) were not the cause of the Arab Spring, they were important contributors in the overthrow of decades old oppressive regimes, and they sowed the seeds of democracy in Tunisia, Egypt and Syria by serving as tools of communications before and during the uprisings.

Revolutionaries used these tools to disseminate information with real time updates to inform the world about the revolution and the government crackdown as well as to mobilize the citizens for their cause. Here again, we see the importance of high penetration: the Cyber tools were most efficiently used in Tunisia and Egypt because of a higher Internet penetration, while in countries with lesser penetration, such as Yemen, or in countries with government controlled Internet, the effect of these Cyber tools were diminished.

Malcolm Gladwell provides a contrary point of view about the importance of the role of Cyber technologies in the recent uprisings. He suggests that various significant events in the past, such as the fall of the Berlin wall, and also more recently, the Yemen uprisings, have occurred without the use of Cyber technologies. Clearly, the level of importance of Cyber to global events can be debated, but what cannot be debated is the fact that Cyber technologies are here to stay and will continue to have significant impact on social events around the globe.

CD3: Cyber Defense

Many – presumably most – governments monitor all Cyber activities and use the vast amount of resulting data for purposes primarily having to do with the security and control of their populations. The dilemma with this use of Cyber is the critical question about the balance between privacy and security.

As an example, NATO dealt with around 2,500 serious attacks on at their computer networks in 2012. The identities of the attackers range from hacking activists, criminals, and unfriendly nations. NATO’s biggest fear is that an attack on one of their systems will result in catastrophic loss of data, or interruption of critical services, resulting in casualties. Recently, China has been accused of trying to break into U.S. defense systems in response to the Snowden leak on the PRISM program. The constant battle between different entities shows that modern intelligence and weapons require protection in a way that hadn’t existed before: we now need Cyber Defense.

Most attacks on the NATO servers come as spear phishing emails, which means that emails are sent from seemingly legitimate but compromised organizations, which contain links that, once clicked on, enable the sender to steal passwords or other data. In response, the members of NATO have decided to seek a higher echelon of Cybersecurity. NATO’s strategy is to achieve higher defense capabilities rather than finding the hacker as an offensive alternative.

These threats are what Cybersecurity professionals identify as the most prominent in today’s environment. It is important then that governments and IT professionals find a collaborative solution to facilitate trustworthy sharing of information to fight against the more organized attackers and hackers.

The ZapThink Take

Over time governments will increasingly feel the need to use Cyber technologies to gather information that shows trends of potential dangerous activities by collecting communication data of all sorts, including verbal, emails, browsing activities etc.

In the future it is easy to see a world in which high speed networks and computers monitor all communication in real time in an attempt to detect suspicious patterns. Add to this surveillance the ever increasing network of cameras, placed in all areas where people live, shop, meet and socialize, and connected to the vast resources deployed in Cyberspace and you can imagine that, not far into the future, to varying degrees in different societies, every movement is tracked, analyzed and compared for trends. The more controlling a country’s leadership is, the more severe the monitoring will be.

Dov Levy ProfileAbout Dov Levy

Mr. Levy is the President and CTO for Dovel Technologies, Inc., the company he co-founded. He has responsible for creating innovative solutions for the federal government by Dovel.

As an entrepreneur and a technologist with over 25 years of hands-on experience, Mr. Levy has a deep understanding of what it takes to deliver a state-of-the art solution with technologies such as Service Oriented Architecture, Cloud and Mobile computing. He has solid experience with delivering solutions using open source components.

Elma Levy ProfileAbout Elma Levy

 Ms. Levy is Co-Founder and Chair of the Board of Dovel Technologies Group, a company responsible for implementing innovative solutions for the Federal Government.

As an entrepreneur she was responsible for establishing all departments and related policies and processes for the company from its inception. In addition her involvement at Dovel, she enjoys mentoring and working with entrepreneurs, providing them with real-life expertise of entrepreneurship.  Ms. Levy is a frequent speaker at the Carey School of Business at Johns Hopkins University and is a member of the GWU SEAS Advisory Council and the NVTC Small Business Advisory Council.

Krishna Ramaswamy ProfileAbout Krishna Ramaswamy

Krishna Ramaswamy is a Summer Intern in the Health IT business unit at Dovel Technologies. The internship is part of a Postdoctoral Profession Masters in Bioscience Management degree at the Keck Graduate Institute, Claremont CA. With a PhD in molecular biology (University at Buffalo, SUNY) and postdoctoral experience (University of Southern California) in Cell Biology, Krishna has about 13 years of experience in academic research and is currently in the process of making a transition to the industry.

Aditya Chebolu ProfileAbout Aditya Chebolu

Aditya Chebolu is a Health IT intern at Dovel Technologies. He is currently a graduate student at Georgetown University pursuing a degree in Health Systems Administration and has a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering. Aditya has knowledge in mobile health technologies and the American health system.

Image credit: Nicolas Raymond

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