Global Framework needed to protect Cyberspace – UPSC GS3

Reasons behind Cyberattacks:
  • Economic Benefits: 
    • A cyberattack gives a hacker access to critical economic data that can be sold for millions in the grey market.
    • For instance, a Chinese attack on the weapon design system of the US allows it to develop a competitive advanced defence system. It enables the country to save millions of dollars and years of research and development.
  • Ideological Conflict: 
    • The free and decentralised structure of cyberspace goes against the ideology of authoritarian countries like Russia and China.
    • This induces them to launch attacks on democratic countries like U.S and India.
    • They have also built firewalls to protect their societies from freedom.
  • Geopolitical Interest: 
    • One country attacks another country’s data to serve its geopolitical interest in the region. The attack is aimed to cripple the governance structure in another country and induce it to act in a favourable way.
    • For instance, IP theft costs the US economy hundreds of billions of dollars annually and reduces US companies’ R&D investment and innovation. The reduced investment and rising losses diminish its geopolitical position.
Factors fuelling Cyberattacks:
  • No Global Order: 
    • Countries have domestic laws and agencies to punish cyber offenders.
    • However, it is difficult to punish if the attacker is located in another country as there are no global rules on cyberspace.
  • Low Entrance Threshold: 
    • It enables a curious person to learn and become a hacker.
    • This allows him/her to get into infrastructure, financial or military systems without leaving a trace.
  • Synergy between State and Non-State Actors:
    • Rogue states and well-organised digital terrorist groups use footloose hackers to invade diplomatic and strategic plans.
    • For instance, the October 2020 cyberattack shut down the electrical grid of Mumbai. The New York Times claimed this to be an attack carried out by China with the support of non-state actors.
  • Traceability:
    • The advancement in technology has made the traceability of hackers very difficult.
    • For instance, the hacking group demanded ransom in bitcoins in the May 7 ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline, one of America’s largest fuel suppliers. However, the countries can’t trace transactions in cryptocurrency.
Way Forward:
  • The countries should realise the inefficiencies of domestic laws and institutions in combating cyber-attacks.
  • For instance, the US has a National Security Agency that conducts surveillance under the authority of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
  • Similarly, it has a dedicated Cyber Command but still, it was unable to prevent the May 7 ransomware attack on the colonial pipeline.
Thus, the countries must work together to develop global law and technology to implement more aggressive measures against cyberattacks. The focus should be on developing foolproof encryption to protect the nation’s data.
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