A quest for order amid cyber insecurity

Paper:

Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Context:

  • The issue of global cyberspace rules and norms.

Background:

Cyberspace:

  • The digital revolution has sped up the emergence of a global digital space. This digital space, the “cyberspace”, is the communication space made of network infrastructure (such as servers and cables), devices (like computers and smartphones), software (both human-machine and machine-to-machine interfaces) and data carried over the network.

Significance of cyberspace:

  • Cyberspace has been growing at an exponential rate. The world is adopting new ways of digital interaction and more of our critical infrastructure is going digital.
  • Cyberspace provides major opportunities for innovation, economic progress, cultural development and access to information. Its increasing accessibility and affordabilityhave proved hugely useful for many human activities.
  • The cyberspace market has grown exponentially. Apple, Amazon and Microsoft together have added more than a trillion dollars in market value, since the start of 2020.

Cyber insecurity:

  • Cyberattacks have grown in sophistication, intensity and frequency. Cyberinsecurity of individuals, organisations and states has been expanding even amidst the COVID-19 crisis.
  • New and dangerous practices are developing in cyberspace: cybercrime, information manipulation, political or economic espionage, attacks on critical infrastructure or individuals,theft of personal information or confidential data, compromise of information and communications systems used by citizens, companies and agencies.

Non-state actors:

  • There has been a substantial increase in cyberattacks during the pandemic crisis. In just one week of April 2020, there were over 18 million daily malware and phishing emailsrelated to COVID-19 monitored by a single email provider. Also, more than 240 million COVID-19-related daily spam messages were reported.
  • The cyberattack on the Twitter platform targeting high profile twitter accounts was able to dupe people of around $120,000.
  • The ransomware attackon California University leading COVID-19 research had resulted in the university paying around $1 million.

State actors:

  • Australia has blamed state-backed cyber-attacks on its cyber infrastructure.
  • China has been accused of hacking healthcare institutions in the United States working on the novel coronavirus treatment.
  • The United Kingdom has warned of hackers backed by the Russian state targeting pharmaceutical companies conducting COVID-19 vaccine research.
  • India recently banned 59 Chinese Apps, on grounds of protecting security, sovereignty and privacy.

Key Details:

Need for global collaboration:

  • Since the cyberattacks respect no borders, it is thus essential to bring the international community together to ensure peace and security in the digital space. In such a scenario, shared rules and norms become imperative.
  • The article argues that, against popular perception, cyberspace is not borderless and the connectivity across national boundaries hasn’t been nurtured and hence, it cannot be equated to a global common.
  • The Internet which depends on physical infrastructure under national control remains subject to border controls with each state applying its own laws to national networks, consistent with its international commitments.
  • Also, cyberspace has multiple other stakeholders with the non-state actors playing key roles.There are also many private networks.
  • Nevertheless, states alone have the right of oversight. States remain responsible for cybersecurity, enforcement of laws and protection of public good.

Previous International efforts:

  • In 1998, Russia for the first time raised the issue of information and communications technologies (ICTs) in international security at the UN.
  • Six Group of Governmental Experts (GGE)with two-year terms and limited membership have functioned at the United Nations with the aim of drafting norms for responsible state behavior in cyberspace. India has had representatives on five of the six GGEs.
  • An Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) with a broader membership has been working on the issue of ICT since 2019. India has actively participated in the OEWG.
  • UN Secretary-General António Guterres’s recent report, “Roadmap for Digital Cooperation”,also calls for action on the issue of cyberspace.
  • Many regional organizations, like the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, have voiced support for a cyber code of conduct.
  • The Christchurch Callbrings together countries and companies in an effort to stop the use of social media for promoting terrorism and violent extremism. India has been part of these efforts.

Limitations:

  • Like all other technologies, the growth of cyberspace technology has been way ahead of the development of associated norms and institutions.
  • There has been slow progress in the GGEs and the OEWG.And the discussions have been narrowly focused. Issues such as Internet governance, development, espionage, and digital privacy have been kept out. While terrorism and crime are acknowledged as important, discussion on these has not been focused on.
  • The net result of the UN exercise has been an acceptance that international law and the UN Charter are applicable in cyberspace and subsequently a set of voluntary norms of responsible state behavior was agreed to in 2015. However, there continues some uncertainty as to what aspects of international law and in what circumstances will it be applicable.
  • There seems to be very little hope that the current processes would lead to any substantial cyberspace architecture in the current geopolitical circumstances.

Way forward:

For the world:

  • There is a need for rules and norms that provide clarity on acceptable behavior and deter subversive behavior from nefarious actors.
  • The next phase of global collaboration in an increasingly contested and fragmenting cyberspace domain requires better arrangements and more intense partnerships with more safeguards.

For India:

  • Given the fact that the next billion new smartphone users will include a significant number from India, India has high stakes in this issue.

Balancing the competing needs:

  • India needs to evolve an approach, in tune with its economic, social and political objectives. The approach will have to balance the competing demands of national sovereignty and transnational connectivity and the twin needs of national security and economic growth.
  • India’s disinclination to support unfettered data flows across borders is propelled by the ‘data sovereignty principle’. However, the emphasis to nationalize data could pose problems for entrepreneurs and start-ups who prefer relaxed data-sharing rules to foster innovation and product development.

Shaping cybernames and rules:

  • Globally, India’s passivity in influencing global tech rules must end and India needs to play a key role in shaping cybernames and rules.
  • Engagement in multi-stakeholder orientations such as the Paris Call (for trust and security in cyberspace) could be helpful.
  • India could consider acceding to the Budapest Convention, or Convention on Cybercrime of the Council of Europe.
  • The sheer volume of data generated by citizens at home makes India an essential destination for foreign technology firms enabling India to exercise its authority in shaping global trade rules. This allows India to shape, influence and constrain global technology rules that serve its strategic interests. It can and must significantly shape the making of the digital world.
  • Domestically, there is a need for the adoption of a robust data protection regime.

Involving the stakeholders:

  • There is the need to encourage the private sectorto get involved more in industry-focused processes in the domain of cyberspace such as the Microsoft-initiated Cybersecurity Tech Accord and the Siemens-led Charter of Trust.
  • There is also the need for a deeper public understanding of the various dimensions of cyberspace.Addressing the current digital divide will help in this direction.

Fewer species, more disease

Paper:

Mains:  General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management 

Context:

  • the link between the loss of biodiversity and the emergence of zoonotic diseases.

Background:

  • In the recent past, dangerous infectious diseases (Ebola, Bird flu, MERS, SARS, Nipa, etc.)have been transferred from wild animals to humans.
  • Though not confirmed yet, there is a growing acceptance among the experts that SARS-CoV-2is a zoonotic virus.

Details:

  • There is increasing evidence showing strong linkages between the loss of biodiversity, and wildlife trade, with the emergence of epidemics.
  • The IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Servicesnotes that with significant encroachment of natural habitats by humans, biodiversity has been declining significantly. By disturbing the delicate balance of nature, ideal conditions for the spread of viruses from animals to humans have been created.

Loss of biodiversity:

  • The clearing of forest lands for agriculture and developmental activities have destroyed the habitat of several species of flora and fauna. This has added to the extinction of many species and the loss of biodiversity. This has resulted in new conditions that host vectors and/or pathogens.

Wildlife trade:

  • Both legal, as well as the illegal trade of wildlife, is a serious threat to biodiversity. Trafficking in wild plants and animals and wildlife products has become one of the largest and most lucrative forms of organised crime.
  • Body parts of animals including pangolins, Asiatic black bears and rhinos are being traded illegally to countries such as China, Vietnam, and Laos. Species are being wiped out by organised trade networks.

The way forward:

Adopting an environmentally sustainable model:

  • The pandemic is an opportunity for the global community to examine the impact of its unscientific actions on nature and prepare for behavioral change. The mainstreaming of biodiversity is needed in India’s post-COVID-19 development programme.
  • There is a need for an environmentally responsible world. India should work towards realizing the 2050 vision for biodiversity, ‘Living in Harmony with Nature’.
  • Ecosystem integrity based on high biodiversity helps restrict the transmission of pathogens from one species to another.

One health approach:

  • There is a need to accept the ‘one health’ approach which considers the health of people, wild and domesticated animals, and the environment.

Enforcement of existing laws and strategies:

  • India should strictly enforce the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972 and the Biological Diversity Act of 2002.
  • The Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972 prohibits the trade of 1,800 species of wild animals/plants and their derivatives.
  • There is also a need to fulfil the strategies and action plans including the National Biodiversity Targets and the National Biodiversity Mission.
    • National Biodiversity Mission involves the following:
  • Comprehensive documentation of India’s biodiversity. Assessment of the distribution and conservation status of India’s biodiversity.
  • Expansion of knowledge in ecosystem functioning that will inform restoration efforts.
  • Establishment of a vibrant biodiversity-based economy.
  • Enhanced engagement with the public.
  • There are 12 National Biodiversity Targets. These NBTs would be in line with the Strategic Plan (SP) for Biodiversity (2011-2020) and 20 Aichi Targets.