Categories
Security Technology Internet

Buzzword ‘Cyberwar’

Cyberwar: Concept, Status Quo, and Limitations
Cyberwar: Concept, Status Quo, and Limitations (istock.com)

For all the talk about cyberwar, what does it actually mean?

In a recent policy brief, Myriam Dunn defines it as “warlike conflict in the virtual space that primarily involves information technology means.”

According to her, it’s the last rung on the ladder of cyberconflict, as measured by potential damage.

While milder forms of cyberconflict – cybervandalism, internet crime and cyberespionage – are relatively frequent, we lack established knowledge on potentially more destructive forms such as cyberterrorism and cyberwar.  This is why the debate on cyberwar is extremely prone to speculation, she warns.

You can download the paper here.

Also, you may want to check the ISN’s Digital Library for further resources on information and cyber warfare.

Categories
Intelligence Technology

Putting a Value on Privacy

Photo: Alan Cleaver/flickr

A 19 February article by Newsweek (The Snitch in Your Pocket Law enforcement is tracking Americans’ cell phones in real time—without the benefit of a warrant), attempts to revive the debate about the government’s forays into the realm of “Big Brother” (a cliché no mainstream media outlet can avoid).

The FBI, according to the article, has been seeking “unusually sensitive records: internal data from telecommunications companies” that show “the locations of their customers’ cell phones – sometimes in real time, sometimes after the fact.” This information, according to federal prosecutors, is used to trace the movements of suspected drug traffickers, human smugglers and corrupt officials. The story was revived because a few federal magistrates questioned the legal authority for obtaining this information. The report notes that there are some 277 million cell phone users in the US, and that companies like AT&T, Verizon and Sprint can track their devices in real time. It also quoted ‘experts’ as saying that most people do not realize this.

Lately, according to Newsweek, citing law enforcement officials, court records and telecommunications executives, “the FBI and other law-enforcement outfits have been obtaining more and more records of cell-phone locations – without notifying the targets or getting judicial warrants establishing ‘probable cause.’

Categories
Government Audio/Video Technology

iWar: Apple’s Military Market

US Marines recharge their army-issue iPods / Photo: Randy,flickr

This week, the biggest names in the mobile phone industry declared war on Apple Inc by forming an alliance to combat the iPhone’s dominance over the apps market. And on Tuesday Microsoft launched a counterattack on the handset with its new Windows Phone 7. The battle waged by rival companies against Apple’s growing monopoly in the world of consumer electronics has become a commonplace media fixture, with the metaphor of war a recurring theme in press coverage.

But outside of the public consumer sphere, Apple’s market has extended to the world of actual warfare. The iPod touch is now being issued to US military personnel due to its multitude of battlefield applications and cost-effectiveness. This single device can be programmed to process the multitude of data of modern warfare, including linking soldiers and drones via wireless internet networks, and as a navigation and translation tool. Apps have been created that allow soldiers to receive intelligence on their local area, translate Arabic, Kurdish and several Afghan languages, and make ballistics calculations.

Categories
Technology Internet

Crises and Maps

OSM-Haiti
Map of Port-au-Prince based on OpenStreetMap data

For all the criticism about open collaborative projects, these have one unquestionable asset: the speed and efficiency of updates.

In crisis situations such as the Haiti earthquake, this makes all the difference. I’ve been following the developments of OpenStreetMap (OSM) after the first earthquake hit and it’s fascinating. Just check this comparision with Google to convince yourself (play with the transparency in the top right corner).

Categories
Business and Finance Technology

Mobile Phones Transform Development

Before the internet comes the mobile phone / Photo: Esthr, flickr

They are among the most underdeveloped countries in the world. Only a minority of their people has access to electricity. Clean drinking water remains a distant dream. Many of their children continue to die of diseases that have long become extinct here in the West or are easily preventable.

But in one area, developing countries are clearly ahead of the industrialized world: the use of mobile phone applications.

Three-quarters of the world’s mobile phones are believed to be owned by people in developing countries.

In Africa, more people own mobile phones (37 percent) than have access to electricity (25 percent). (Note: Phones are often charged using rather ingenious methods, such as old car batteries). According to one estimate, about a billion people, most of them in the developing world, don’t have a bank account but – guess what? – own a cell phone.