Cybersecurity used to overcome terrorism

The increase in terrorism in the last decade continues to provide fuel for governments and the media to collate more data on citizens.

Established governments are having to cut resources in their local territories for defence and policing in the wake of the “economy crashes” and diversify their spending into the private sectors, to keep the economy in a more stable position. Ireland, Ukraine and more recently Greece are prime examples of countries facing tough times due to the economic climate and as a result an increase in crime too.

This diversification of spending has resulted in an increase in policing by “Big Data” or “Infoconomy” . What does this mean? Countries are policing by algorithms, collated data via social media, increased storage of photos, citizen habits in spending and any other information they can collate from our world, such as internet browsing and smartphone usage. Why use this method? They cannot afford to put physical people on the ground and follow the bad guys through surveillance. This data is then used to make predictions on who to monitor and even how to spend billions in the next budget. It is now so extreme, as a rule of thumb, data is collated on everyone and then filtered to establish the bad guys. Big Brother is a reality, we are being watched and listened to each time we start a conversation online or pick up the phone and speak to someone three thousand miles away.

The collation of this data is nothing new though. An example of collating data, is when we go to a supermarket and purchase goods. Some of us may use a loyalty card. Through the loyalty programme, we are allowing the supermarket to collate data about our habits. Our spending, time of visits and even common stores.

This all comes together to form insights into us as individuals and allow supermarkets to predict when we are going to buy our next jar of coffee or send us offers when we have not purchased a certain type of milk in our last shop. The insight allows the corporates to forecast spending and individual shopping habits.

The example used in my university days was in regards to buying diapers(nappies) and beer. The collation of data found that men who went into buy diapers also would buy beer after 7pm. Marketing companies used this information to encourage stores to ensure all diapers were placed not too far from beer, resulting in two items being sold and not just the one.

Governments are using their information gathering to do similar actives. Their marketing push, is that we will be protected against terrorism and they do not need to tell us they are actually conducting this type of research and data collection.

As a professional in the Cybersecurity world, I understand the importance of protecting organizations, governments and individual people; however, there is a fine line between collecting data for the sake of it to make life easier and protection due to life and death.

Cybersecurity is definitely one of those areas where you need to evaluate the validity of any information you find online before accepting it and I hope that governments are doing this.