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Wikileaks 2012, NSA 2013, NTIA Mishaps & Global Cyber Crime 2014: U.S. Exceptionalism over IG 2015?

Sophia Bekele

The internet has become almost part of our daily involvement and reality is that it affects every facet of our modern lives. We are increasingly becoming dependent on the Internet, for which reason its availability, functionality, safety, stability and security are now of great and continuing concern to all of us and most importantly to US Congress, who so far has maintained stewardship over these key functions.

As the internet gets new updates, services apps and new technologies, so is the increased threats to the very resource we would like to use and trust. Several issues have become evident and have hit the headlines and drawn us to concerns we must boldly address. In my previous article, "From Wikileaks of 2012 to Snowden's NSA Leaks of 2013: Implications for Global Internet Governance”, I covered the trending issue that came to the fore, that whilst Wiki leaks was about US diplomatic cables, the Edward Snowden disclosure of classified NSA information to private media organizations such as the UK Guardian newspaper has had graver implications for global Internet privacy. The NSA leak presented the United States of America as a country that practically spies on everybody in a most indiscriminate manner, including its own allies.

In an interview with CIO East Africa, I gave the African continent's perspective as to why the "The AUCC debate on Cyber Security needs to involve all stakeholders" concerning the NSA issue and that "African governments are still a long way in accepting such technologies as open data… African governments can prepare proper legislations and strategize on how to handle private data in a manner that is not intrusive to rights of its citizens. The backlash of the NSA revelations wouldn't be a good experience for any government". Therefore "this emphasizes that internet governance should be a matter that is handled by many stakeholders to avoid giving the governments a monopoly of leadership in policy development"

From a private sector perspective , I wrote a piece on the reality of Emerging Cyber-Security Threats and Implications for the Private Sector, including a case for New gTLDs & Security — where I highlighted that "cyber-warfare will be conducted against computers and network resources owned and operated by the private sector who own the utilities, financial corporations, and a lot of intellectual property." As such "The cost of Internet Security protection is bound to sky-rocket in the coming years." As "Private sector organizations that have their information resources compromised as a result of cyber-security attacks will not only suffer huge financial losses, and loss of business good-will, but their stock value could be affected and plummet and suffer degradation of overall market value. Investors stand the risk of losing their money invested in such companies." A case and point that soon exasperated was when Target, a US National Retailer was attacked by hackers who gained access to as many as 40 million credit and debit cards used by customers of Target during the height of the holiday shopping season.

Only at the end of 2014, did we come across deafening noise on the famous Sony Pictures Entertainment cyber hack, as it also took interest of the US political scene. Here there was a release of confidential data belonging to Sony Pictures Entertainment, the hackers who also called themselves the "Guardians of Peace" or "GOP" demanded the cancellation of the planned release of the film "The Interview", a comedy about a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The US leadership saw it as un-American to recoil to such threat and also an attack on free speech.

As a result of such global cyber crime matters, President Obama Obama signed an order to protect consumers from identity theft by strengthening security features in credit cards and the terminals that process them and also plans to announce legislation that would shield companies from lawsuits for sharing computer threat data with the government in an effort to prevent cyberattacks.

Most recently ICANN the internet gatekeeper announced that it was "investigating a recent intrusion into our systems. We believe a "spear phishing" attack was initiated in late November 2014. It involved email messages that were crafted to appear to come from our own domain being sent to members of our staff. The attack resulted in the compromise of the email credentials of several ICANN staff members". Whilst, this goes to show that no one is safe from these targeted attacks. ICANN's mission is tied to being the gatekeeper over the availability, functionality, safety, stability and security of the global internet, which directly impact Cyber Security. ICANN itself is embroiled in a bid to sever its ties with the US government; therefore, aside from the mainstream accountability concerns, governance of the cyber security has and will form a major part of discussions on designing a new model to oversight ICANN. From the statements and activities, the US congress is not keen to let this separation happen soon, with the budgetary interventions, the IANA transition may just be but a dream.

From an individual perspective, a recent case was reported by Addis Fortune Newspaper where "The Court passed a guilty verdict against Yonas, a member of the Ethiopian diaspora from Germany, and sentenced him to two years in prison (although reversal was made afterwards by a higher court to a 6 months only imprisonment by suspension, based on lack of reasonable prove on aggravating circumstances to delete data from the computer of the victim) and a 5,000-Br fine for the cyber crime he was said to have committed against his business partner lady Akiko Seyoum". This is among the rare cases of prosecution for cyber crime, and a signal that Africa is becoming aware of the need to mitigate the increase of cyber crime and money laundering schemes.

In conclusion, the need to protect the global internet from such implications above as to its availability, functionality, safety, stability and security and using it also as a diplomacy tool to ensure the same, would definitely give a justification by a wide margin to the US status quo over the internet. Whilst, the US would not allow itself to be liable as exemplified during the global financial crisis of 2009 and the 1930, for blowing out its house of cards over its American Exceptionalism, a concept that has its roots from the principle of a country organized around an ideology that includes a set of dogmas about the nature of a good society, especially the one that tied it to a future mission of bringing liberty and democracy to the world.

Therefore, expect nothing less but 2015 to be a year of American Excepionalism over Internet Governance!

By Sophia Bekele, CEO of DotConnectAfrica. Ms. Bekele is a former ICANN generic Names Supporting Organization (gNSO) Council policy advisor & contributed to policy over the new gTLD programme & IDNs. She was also policy advisor to various UN Agencies on ICTs. Founder and spearhead of the Yes2DotAfrica campaign. Bekele is a business and corporate executive, an international entrepreneur, a thought leader in Corporate and ICT Governance, international policy, Business Strategy, Internet, ICT & development. Her Profiles on sophiabekele.com / wikipedia.

Related topics: ICANN, Internet Governance, Policy & Regulation

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