A world at war

Read time 2min 40sec
Pete Herzog, MD of the Institute for Security and Open Methodologies.
Pete Herzog, MD of the Institute for Security and Open Methodologies.

When it comes to security, we are all affected.

This message was repeatedly stressed by the keynote speakers at the start of the Cape Town leg of ITWeb Security Summit 2019.

In a world where data drives everything we do, truth, integrity, sovereignty and freedom have become security problems. Ensuring these fundamentals is dependent on the security community's ability to keep everyone safe. Cyber security is a contagious environment.

"When things go wrong, they spread. This has the potential to have a serious impact on the global economy," noted Charl van der Walt, security strategy officer at SecureData SensePost.

The world is currently living in the middle of a low-level cyber war, forcing countries, and the leaders thereof, to start making some tough choices around the manufacturers and suppliers they want to support.

We saw this earlier in the week when Google announced it would cut ties with Huawei in order to comply with new government trade restrictions. And other tech bigwigs are set to follow suit.

The rise of cognitive cyber

Along with these changes in how nation states interact with each other come changes in our perceptions around who the "bad guys" really are and what hacking actually means in 2019.

Cyber effects are produced not only by the manipulation of software, data or networks but also by the engineering of knowledge and opinion. Modern cyber incidents may still result in infrastructural or financial meltdown but they also cause subversion and aim to control/shape our ideas and perceptions of the world around us. Propaganda is not anything new but when combined with data-driven insights and analytics, the scope and impact of these information manipulation manoeuvres are far-reaching.

This demands that nations build up their geopolitical vocabulary.

Cyber space has become a globally contested territory: there is no longer offence or defence, just control and non-control. Today, there is so much more to security than what we have all heard about in boardrooms, been taught or heard about in the media.

Pete Herzog, MD of the Institute for Security and Open Methodologies, used the fable of the frog and scorpion to showcase the accountability and reciprocity conundrum. The scorpion asks the frog for a lift across the river because he cannot swim; assuring the frog he will sting him because he needs the frog in order to get to the other side.

The frog obliges but halfway through their journey, the scorpion goes back on his word, stings the frog and both drown.

Who is to blame here, asked Herzog. The frog who was gullible enough to believe the scorpion, or the scorpion who offed his ride? This story perfectly represents the situation we find ourselves in today, where the "nature" of different nations may be at conflict with their interests.

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