Espionage is not some new-age practice.
Diplomatic workers, military attachés, and trade delegations are all routinely acquiring publically available information. They obtain information through open sources such as the media, conferences, diplomatic events, and trade shows, as well as direct contact with representatives from the host government. This allows them to keep tabs on political, economic, and military developments in their host country while also providing information to their own governments. As a result, foreign officials assist their governments in shaping international, commercial, and military policy. This type of effort does not jeopardise our national security. In fact, it frequently assists us in forming positive relationships with other countries.
The goal of espionage is to get non-public information using covert techniques. First and foremost, classified material is kept secret because its exposure could jeopardise national security, jeopardise the country’s economic well-being, or hurt international relations. Its sensitivity necessitates our protection, but it also makes it appealing to spies.
Serious harm can be done if this information is obtained by individuals who have no permission to access it. Other countries, for example, are looking for technical knowledge about weapons systems in order to identify strategies to counteract our military advantages. Furthermore, the theft of sensitive technologies could allow foreign corporations to imitate them, posing a threat to national security as well as job security.
Dangerous Liaisons- Honey Trapping
A wide-ranging Chinese operation to blackmail Western businesses over sexual ties was described by the renowned British security service. The document report expressly states that Chinese intelligence agencies are attempting to build “long-term connections” and have been known to “exploit vulnerabilities such as sexual relationships… to pressurise individuals to cooperate with them,” as the London Times reported in 2009.
Spymasters of all kinds have been training their spies to utilise the amorous arts to gather hidden information for millennia. The “honey trap” is the trade name for this sort of surveillance. And it turns out that both men and women are equally capable of creating one — and equally prone to falling into it. As bait, spies utilise sex, intelligence, and the thrill of living a double life. Against a well-set honey trap, cunning, training, character, and patriotism are frequently ineffective.
Spymasters, Romeo Spies and Elaborate Honey Traps
Markus Wolf, the legendary East German spymaster, perhaps devised the biggest honey trap in intelligence history. Wolf realised in the early 1950s that, as a result of the large number of marriageable German men killed in World War II and the increasing number of German women pursuing careers, the higher echelons of the German government, commerce, and industry were now stocked with lonely single women, ripe — in his opinion — for the temptations of a honey trap.
Wolf established a special division of the Stasi, East Germany’s security organisation, and filled it with his most attractive and intelligent officers. They were dubbed “Romeo spies” by him. Their mission was to infiltrate West Germany, find influential, unmarried women, woo them, and get all of their secrets from them. The Stasi infiltrated most levels of West German government and industry thanks to the Romeo spies and their honey traps. At one point, the East Germans even had a spy inside NATO who could provide information on the West’s nuclear weapons deployment. Another utilised her contacts to work as a secretary in the office of Helmut Schmidt, the West German chancellor.
Honey Trap Spies lurking on Dating Apps Today
In 2019, India discovered 150 Pakistani social media personas that were meant to dupe Indian army officers into divulging state secrets. India instructed soldiers to deactivate Facebook, Instagram, Tinder, and hundreds of other apps from phones because the problem was so serious. A woman would normally begin the seduction by ‘liking’ a soldier’s social media post and asking for more photographs of firearms and aircraft. The conversation would then shift to direct texting, with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence enticingly requesting defence secrets.
Foreign Interference Plot on an unspecified Australian Election Revealed
Tinder and other dating apps are being used by foreign spies to recruit Australians with access to key government information currently. While delivering his yearly threat assessment, ASIO commander Mike Burgess revealed the alarming disclosure, warning that identifying anti-vaccine campaigners who could turn violent was proving tough.
Mr Burgess confirmed espionage and foreign interference has now “supplanted” terrorism as the “principal security concern” in a wide-ranging address to an audience of military chiefs, security bosses, and politicians inside ASIO’s Canberra headquarters, declaring the recent AUKUS nuclear partnership an obvious target for international agents.
Thousands of Australians with access to confidential material are thought to have been targeted by foreign intelligence services through social media profiles over the last two years. These assassins know how to use the internet to find new recruits. On messaging systems like WhatsApp, there has been an increase in dubious approaches. As part of its attempt to entice Australians with access to state secrets, overseas intelligence operatives are being tracked by ASIO on popular dating apps. Foreign intelligence services can easily target personnel of interest by going online, according to the Director-General of Security.
The Chinese Mastermind behind North Korean Cyber Attacks: The Accomplice with Selfish Motives
North Korea’s nuclear weapon adventures make for regular headlines in news channels, and to fund these nuclear tests they deploy covert cyber hackings. The nation has a history of criminal activities, be it counterfeiting the US $100 federal reserve notes and passing them off in various countries, or becoming the single largest producer of methamphetamine (a highly addictive drug). The development of a cyber army by North Korea in its attempt to keep an eye on its potential enemies and to establish its hegemony in the upcoming cyber world is an alarming situation for all other democratic countries. Facing heavy trade sanctions for its inhuman activities, North Korea’s regime involves itself in finding alternative methods to secure foreign capital for itself. Factors like covid-19 hitting the economy, and an all-time-low trade relations with other countries particularly China force them to commit such nefarious activities.
As per reports from a blockchain analysis company, Chain Analysis, North Korea has stolen almost $400 million of digital assets by attacking cryptocurrency platforms. The findings further reported that the frequency of attacks escalated from 4 to 7 times and the value extracted from these attacks grew up by 40%.
There are between 6000 to 7500 cyber warriors divided into four units to carry out cyber-terrorism against state infrastructure and financial services, and to hijack the latest defense technologies inspired by China’s cyber warfare. The cyber warriors set up their first unit in 1993.
The attacks help them gather large amounts of money with less reputational risk, and the other motivating factor behind such attacks is to have cyber warfare with its enemy nations as initially, they targeted South Korea to undermine its overall economy.
Dedicated office in North Korea
Bureau 121 formed in 1998 is a secret cyber attack group, for stealing confidential information from overseas nations. As per media reports, they operate from Shenyang, China, and many members of the group are teenagers. As per the defector Jang Se-Yul, more than 1800 members are operating from different parts of the world. They are highly trained and rewarded military officials, and their main targets are the USA, South Korea, and Japan.
Bureau 39, also known as ‘Cash for Kim’, is a secret agency that manages finances for the top leaders of North Korea, and also finances nuclear weapons. They are involved in multiple illegal activities like counterfeiting foreign currency, slave trades (human trafficking), and the illegal selling of drugs and arms. Earnings from these activities are used to train hackers and to provide them with the essential tools for hacking.
History of major attacks by North Korea
The 2014 attack on Sony network under the name ‘Guardian of Peace’ was one of the major cyber-attacks done on any organization, to obstruct the release of the comedy movie ‘The Interview’ based on the assassination attempt of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un.
In 2016, hackers from North Korea tried to rob $1 billion from Bangladesh National Bank using the SWIFT banking system but the bank was saved by a timely intervention from the authorities.
A group of hackers called ‘Lazarus’ carried out a heist of $275 million on the cryptocurrency exchange ‘KuCoin’ based in Singapore.
On 4th August 2022, there was an attack on a software supplier named Advanced Software Group, which was working with government agencies. A ransomware attack on the National Health Service (NHS) across the United Kingdom was implemented, and it tried to steal patients’ details and other pertinent data.
In December 2022, Daniel DePetris, a US-based foreign analyst, received an email to give his thoughts on North Korea’s security issues. When he inquired deeply about the emails he found that the mail was sent by a spy who disguised himself as the director of ’38 North’ think tank who wanted to target the analyst. “I realized it wasn’t legit once I contacted the person with follow-up questions and found out there was, in fact, no request that was made, and that this person was also a target”, DePetris told Reuters. Experts related to this field said that the hackers tried to find other countries’ approaches and policies towards North Korea and mainly wished to know where the Western policy is headed on North Korea.
China helps North Korean hackers to launder the stolen money back to their country by helping them evade the economic sanctions. There is also support in the form of Chinese cyber infrastructure and in the form of providing training to the hackers. Some experts suggest that there are very poor internet conditions in Pyongyang and the hackers operate from the Chinese regions, especially those near China’s border cities such as Dandong. Some reports also give evidence to the fact that the famous hacker group Lazarus was trained by China’s cyber warfare department.
China helps North Korea’s Bureau 121 officials by giving them shelter in its country’s territory, and by providing them with all the basic facilities required for cybercrime (as per media reports).
China and North Korea have a student exchange programme, which eventually becomes the training ground for potential cyber hackers.
China’s Involvement in Cyberattacks
Naikon APT (Advanced Persistent Threat) group backed by China’s People Liberation Army unit 78020 is involved in operations against national governments in the Asia-Pacific region. After the report published by ‘Threatconnect’ and ‘Defense group inc.’, the activities of the group have decreased drastically. Seculations are that they have either gone silent or have changed their modus operandi. However, in 2020, Check Point Software Technologies’ threat intelligence arm revealed that the APT had many Asia-Pacific countries on its radar, and the case of cyber attacks on the Western Australian government was planned using the backdoor name ‘Aria-body’.
Their victims are mainly government agencies which include Foreign Ministry and Ministry of Science and Technology, civil and military organizations in countries such as the Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Singapore, Nepal, Thailand, and Laos.
By stealing confidential data of different government units, the ‘threat actors’ used to create mistrust between the different ministries. Their main aim is to gather geo-political intelligence.
China’s persistent use of cyber technology for unlawful activities has attracted North Korea towards it as its favorite teacher.
China Working at the Periphery
There is no concrete evidence of a joint cyber attack by China and North Korea as of now. China mainly works on the periphery and North Korea operates from the center. Their confluence can also be substantiated by following the fact that there has not been a single cyber attack on China (However, Beijing has accused the US of Cyber attacks for stealing sensitive data) till date from North Korea. North Korea has also attacked all other nations except China.
India – Digital Threats
As per the recent report of Panama-based virtual private network ‘Nordvpn’, the Indian users’ data is most commonly seen in cybercrime markets. The recent cyber attack on AIIMS Delhi, for which officials argued that it originated in China may have some North Korean connection also. With the rise of digital use, the vulnerability of such attacks will increase and there needs to be a robust mechanism to minimize such illegal attacks
Internet of Things (IoT) Effects on Society: Benefits and Risks
The Internet of Things (IoT) may provide numerous advantages and have a disruptive effect, e-commerce literature has paid little attention. The Internet of Things (IoT) is a term used to describe a situation in which physical items are linked to the Internet and are capable of identifying themselves to other devices and exchanging information. These devices produce a tremendous amount of data. New insights may be developed when it is able to aggregate data from devices and other systems, and these insights could have a significant positive impact on e-commerce. The dual nature of technology foresees the possibility of risks along with advantages.
The phrase “Internet of Things” (IoT) describes the expanding network of physical items with an IP address for internet connectivity as well as the communication that takes place between these objects and other systems and devices that have access to the Internet. Through the use of ambient intelligence, IoT enables remote access to sensor data, remote monitoring and control of the physical world, and the coordinated action of several physical items. These devices, together with the connection between them, can help e-commerce by generating the high-quality data needed to make the appropriate judgments at the appropriate time.
The primary driving force behind the IoT is the blending and integration of various technologies and communications solutions, including distributed intelligence for smart objects, Radio Frequency Identification technology, Electronic Product Code technology, and ZigBee technology . These technologies include identification and tracking technologies, wired and wireless sensor and actuator networks, enhanced communication protocols (shared with the Next Generation Internet), and Radio Frequency Identification technology. An Android or iOS device can function as a sensor in a big network by installing apps on it.
Potential Benefits of IOT
IoT generates a significant amount of big data. The public’s access to data and information, for starters, considerably increases government openness. Increased openness and transparency aid in proper oversight and cut down on waste in government. Second, enabling consumer self-service in this way can give people and businesses more access to information, empowering them to make decisions by utilizing the massive amount of data gathered by IoT and the wisdom of crowds. IoT provides users with insightful guidance. Route planning, for instance, supports drivers by taking into account constraints related to traffic, time, and cost in intelligent transportation systems such as in-car intelligent driving systems and smart highways.
In short, IoT can provide a range of advantages relating to trend analysis of historical data over time as well as real-time measurement and analyses of sensor data. These advantages include enhanced effectiveness, better flexibility, and real-time assessment of service efficiency. The potential advantages of IoT are into three categories: tactical, operational, and strategic/political. This is a common split that works well for e-commerce research. IoT advantages could include:
- Political and Strategic – better trend analysis and forecasting, increased government transparency, and increased citizen empowerment.
- Tactical – better cost-saving and revenue-generating planning, more effective regulation enforcement, greater health and safety measures, and better management and maintenance planning.
- Operational – Enhanced services’ efficacy, flexibility, and efficiency.
Potential Risks of IOT
As new sources of data that are obtained by continually monitoring a wide variety of things in a variety of scenarios become available, organizations are increasingly turning to the IoT. There are, however, a number of technological and legislative issues that must be resolved. It is obvious that there are several challenges in implementing IoT for e-commerce. The degree of information sensitivity is an important factor that the access control mechanism must take into account. User data disclosure could make private information, including dietary preferences or financial information, public. Unauthorized access to this data has a negative effect on user privacy. In this way, IoT necessitates unique strategies to guarantee the ethical and safe use of the data generated, necessitating robust data governance. The safe and ethical use of data produced by IoT devices might be hampered by a lax approach to data governance.
Operational obstacles include challenges with human capital, such as the difficulty in hiring competent staff, a lack of specialists, and a lack of workers with the necessary skills to operate new applications, as well as a lack of IoT-focused training and educational opportunities.
Concerns about data management are also present. When integrating IoT solutions, organizations must deal with a complicated heritage of data and applications. Several generations of systems may be running concurrently in many businesses, and a large portion of the data fed into the system has been done manually, with the attendant risks to the quality of the data.
In summary, IoT encounters a number of challenges relating to the appropriate use (privacy and security, for example) and management of the data gathered by the enormous number of interconnected objects. Conflicting market factors, data privacy concerns, data security concerns, weak or uncoordinated data rules, and weak or uncoordinated data governance are all examples of strategic/political hurdles.
The following are examples of tactical obstacles: expenses, problems with integration and interoperability, IoT acceptability, and trust-related problems. Data management problems, IoT infrastructure limits, and a lack of basic IoT knowledge are operational concerns.
We can say that The Internet of Things (IoT) enables remote sensor data access as well as remote monitoring and control of the physical world. Additionally, combining and analyzing collected data enables businesses to create and enhance services that cannot be offered by standalone systems. Our evaluation indicates that, despite the paucity of IoT research in the sector of e-commerce, the benefits have been the main focus of anecdotal evidence up to this point.
Future repercussions may exist that extend beyond the achievement of the intended benefits. Specifically, obstacles can be attributed to costs, interoperability and integration problems, and acceptance of IoT, trust-related problems, a lack of sufficient knowledge about IoT, IT infrastructure limitations, and data management problems. They can also be attributed to weak or uncoordinated data policies, weak or uncoordinated data governance, and conflicting market forces.
IoT will undoubtedly have a significant impact on e-commerce services in the future and will offer a range of benefits for e-commerce at all levels, but these benefits must be carefully weighed against the dangers and the proper mitigation measures applied.
How to Utilize the RBI’s Digital Rupee – All You Need to Know
On December 1, 2022, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will begin the first retail digital rupee (e₹-R) pilot.
Here are some necessary details concerning the pilot program for the digital rupee (e₹-R), as stated in the RBI news release dated November 29, 2022:
The closed user group (CUG) consists of participating customers and retailers and would cover several specific sites in the trial.
A digital token that stands in for legal cash would be the e-Rupee. Similar to how coins and paper money are currently issued, it would be published in the same denominations. Through intermediaries, namely banks, it would be distributed.
Users can conduct transactions with e₹-R using a digital wallet provided by the participating banks and kept on mobile phones or other devices.
P2P (person-to-person) and P2M (person-to-merchant) transactions are both possible (P2M). QR codes are used to make payments to merchants at their physical locations.
Trust, safety, and finality of the settlement are three characteristics of physical money that the e₹-R would give.
It can be converted into other forms of currency, such as bank deposits, but it will not accrue any interest, much like cash.
During the pilot, there was real-time testing of the digital rupees’ generation, distribution, and retail use. Other facets and applications of the e-R token and architecture will be tested in additional pilots based on the lessons acquired from this one.
Selected banks for the digital rupee
Eight banks have been chosen to participate in this pilot project in stages. Four banks—the State Bank of India, ICICI Bank, Yes Bank, and IDFC First Bank—will start the first phase in four locations throughout the nation. Four other institutions will eventually join this project, including the Bank of Baroda, Union Bank of India, HDFC Bank, and Kotak Mahindra Bank.
The pilot would initially focus on four cities—Mumbai, New Delhi, Bengaluru, and Bhubaneswar—and later expand to include Ahmedabad, Gangtok, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Indore, Kochi, Lucknow, Patna, and Shimla. The pilot’s scope may gradually expand if more banks, users, or locations are required.
What is the digital rupee?
According to the concept note, the Reserve Bank of India’s official form of money is the Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). The regulatory body declared that the CBDC, also known as the Digital Rupee or e-Rupee, issued by the RBI, is interchangeable one-to-one at par with fiat money and is equivalent to a sovereign currency.
Characteristics of the Digital Rupee
1) According to their monetary policies, central banks can issue the sovereign currency CBDC.
2) It is shown as a liability on the central bank’s balance sheet.
3) It must be acknowledged as a reliable payment method, legal tender, and safe storage of funds by all private persons, commercial enterprises, and governmental organizations.
4) Cash and funds from commercial banks are freely convertible into CBDC.
5) Since CBDC is a fungible legal tender, owners do not require a bank account.
6) It is predicted that CBDC will lower the issuance and transaction fees cost.
Types of CBDC that will be issued
General purpose or retail (CBDC-R) and wholesale are the two subcategories of central bank digital currency. The RBI report from October 7, 2022, states that “CBDC can be categorized into two main forms, namely general purpose or retail (CBDC-R) and wholesale (CBDC-W).” While wholesale CBDC is intended for restricted access by specific financial institutions, retail CBDC may be used by all, including the private sector, non-financial customers, businesses, and consumers. While retail CBDC is an electronic version of currency primarily intended for retail transactions, wholesale CBDC is designed to settle interbank transfers and related wholesale operations.
“Since retail CBDC is the central bank’s direct liability, it is thought that it can give users access to safe money for payments and settlement.” Wholesale CBDC can change financial transaction settlement systems, improving efficiency and security. Given their respective potentials, it may be worthwhile to introduce both CBDC-W and CBDC-R, “According to RBI’s concept note.
Varieties of CBDC
A “token-based” or “account-based” structure is possible for CBDC.
Based on tokens, CBDC
Like banknotes, a token-based CBDC is a bearer instrument; therefore, whoever has the tokens at any given time is presumed to be the owner.
In contrast, an account-based system would need to keep track of all CBDC holders’ transactions and balances and establish the legal owners of any monetary amounts.
The individual receiving a token will confirm that his ownership of the ticket is legitimate in a CBDC based on receipts. In contrast, according to the RBI press release, an intermediary confirms the identity of an account holder in a CBDC based on accounts. Token-based CBDCs are recommended for CBDC-R because they are more similar to actual cash, while account-based CBDCs could be considered for CBDC-W when comparing the qualities of both types of CBDCs.
What Distinctions Exist Between Cryptocurrency and Digital Currency?
Decentralized financial systems, such as cryptocurrencies. Since they were created, cryptocurrencies have avoided the well-established, regulated intermediation and control mechanisms crucial to preserving the integrity and stability of the economic and financial ecosystem.
The spread of cryptocurrency assets “may pose major dangers connected to money laundering and financing terrorism,” according to a news statement from the RBI. The continued usage of crypto assets may also pose a danger to the goals of monetary policy since it could result in the development of a parallel economy, which would likely weaken the transmission of monetary policy and the stability of the domestic currency. Additionally, it will harm efforts to enforce foreign currency laws, particularly those aimed at preventing the abuse of capital flow controls.
“Additionally, the creation of CBDC may offer the general public a risk-free virtual currency that will enable them to transact in lawful ways without the dangers associated with private virtual money.” Therefore, in addition to shielding the general public from the exceptional level of volatility that some of these virtual digital assets face, it might also satisfy the demand for safe digital currency. Another primary reason for implementing CBDC is to protect the ordinary person’s trust in the Indian Rupee in light of the rise of crypto assets, “the regulator added.
According to the RBI, the central bank should provide its citizens with a risk-free central bank digital currency that would provide customers with the same experience as exchanging money in digital form while avoiding any hazards associated with private cryptocurrencies. CBDCs will guarantee consumer protection while delivering the advantages of virtual currencies to the general public by avoiding the detrimental social and economic repercussions of private virtual money.
Instagram Outage: A World Without Instagram?
One evening when I returned from a long evening stroll, the Instagram world had toppled; it was almost like mayhem. Carefully viewing stories of my friends who have alternate accounts, a few of my favorited poetry pages, and other small business accounts from where I usually shop – all were blaring the same horn! A massive Instagram outage had caused a furor over accounts losing followers within seconds, some of the accounts being suspended. Honestly, it felt like a crisis, especially with the tectonic shifts in Twitter only from a few days ago.
The Instagram outage was confirmed via tweets, but the nature of the outage seemed absurd. In my history of using the platform, I haven’t come across an outage this bizarre, but it made me backtrack a few steps and think through an interesting theory I read several years ago. Donna Haraway’s Cyborg Feminism emerged from an essay she wrote in 1985 titled “A Cyborg Manifesto”. Our imagination may fuse to understand the word “cyborg” as being part-human, part-machine or even something right out of the Frankenstein novel’s monster. But it is none of that, and it is a simple idea with complex implications, just like this time’s Instagram outage.
Haraway’s essay calls upon feminists to use technology for social progress, moving away from the traditional and essentialist perceptions of gender in everyday life. Before that, one is to define the term “cyborg”, as mentioned by Haraway. Owing to our increasing involvement with technologies, each individual has merged with the machines becoming a cyborg (a phrase that combines “organism” and “cybernetic”). The term cyborg is also a metaphor for political activity and conflict. In an interview with Wired magazine, Haraway clarified that being a cyborg does not always include having silicon chips implanted under the skin or having mechanical pieces attached to one’s body. Instead, it implies that the human body has developed traits that it would not have been able to do on its own, such as extending life. Even maintaining physical fitness is more technological, with workout equipment, various nutritional supplements, and apparel and footwear explicitly made for athletic activity.
Furthermore, the culture surrounding fitness would not have been possible without the idea that the human body is a highly effective machine whose performance can be enhanced through time. These new digital health tools enable tracking, recording, and turning into data various physical actions. These data are conveniently downloadable into a digital database where cutting-edge algorithms can examine them to produce statistics on a single person or hundreds of people.
Our smartphones are an extension of our memory and even our mental capabilities resulting in an Instagram outage taking the status of nothing short of a phenomenon. Making one compelled to think that this user-creator binary was irked and challenged with one glitch in the grand orchestra of the Instagram world. Some even fear the loss of “followers” or the community they’ve built over the years. We can be present remotely and outside our temporal and spatial frameworks thanks to technological developments in GPS and communication. These technological developments expand the human species and improve our mental and physical capacities turning us into cyborgs.
The widely spread #MeToo movement, the recent anti-hijab movement in Iran, pro-hijab movement in India gained enormous momentum through these social media platforms. Haraway, in calling each one of us cyborgs, advocated the “feminist” use of social media for voicing opinions, advocating, taking charge of the narratives, and sharing their lived experiences. In short, using the extended cyborg arm in the form of our smartphones combined with social media. Cyborg, in this context, becomes the hybrid of machine and organism – a creature of social reality and the one we find in fiction. The social reality is the lived social experiences in the present context of women’s experiences. For example, a fantastic initiative called the “Museum of Rape Threats and Sexism” is a project that highlights the power of social art. This project aims to “memorialise verbal violence that women go through every day”, which is most often normalised and brushed under the carpet.
Cybernetics challenges gender norms in this situation. Women have ingrained that it is in their “nature” to become mothers and wives as ‘destiny’, and that they belong to the weaker sex, are submissive and incapable of independent thought . According to Haraway, these roles cannot be altered if they are all considered “natural”. Through online games, discussion forums, or social media, where our identities can be as varied as the online platforms we use, the social aspect of technology plays a part in the formation of our identities. Men and women, on the other hand, are both social constructs, and nothing about them is intrinsically “natural” or absolute.
Haraway’s argument skips over addressing other significant intersections like accessibility, race, and colour and how each intersection would have a different impact. Despite several shortcomings, the essay is a source of discourses and discussions frequently in feminist circles. The erasure of these identities overnight, or tampering with these identities, feels threatening, especially when this identity became the sole channel to “connect” while remaining physically distant in the COVID-19 pandemic with other human beings as a means of subsistence and earning a continued livelihood, for education to continue, for necessities and groceries being ordered – in short, for every possible human need that there is in these last two years of the worldwide pandemic. I will leave you all with this quote by Michel Foucault that resonated with me reading through all the outage outrage splattered across social media.
“From the idea that the self is not given to us, I think that there is only one practical consequence; we have to create ourselves as a work of art.”
Conflict, COVID and Climate Crisis: Major Risks of our Time
Conflict, COVID and Climate Crisis: Major Risks of our Time
‘If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war. Not missiles but microbes……’ words spoken by Bill Gates in 2015 at Ted Talks proved true, especially in the wake of the COVID pandemic that brought the world to a stand-still. Killing millions of people within two years with tons of collateral damage in areas of health, economy, national security, etc. has shaken the world to its core. But is it just the microbes over missiles that are going to cause mayhem, or a combined effort of both, catalyzed with cyber-catastrophe? The current Russia-Ukraine conflict, Taliban take-over in Afghanistan, the Worst Emergency crisis in Sri Lanka, and the never-ending Israel-Palestine war – these all point towards intensified armed-conflict chaos around the world. On the other hand, the worsening climate crisis is further aching the world manifold. The Australian Wildfires in 2020, East Africa droughts in 2011, 2017 and 2019, regular cloud bursts, and the melting of icebergs in Antarctica are a few of many natural disasters that beg for climate action. But the newest addition to the list of challenges for survival is cyber-warfare. During COVID lockdown, even large-scale businesses and industries moved online for their survival. This transition was never expected to be as sudden as it did during these troubled times. As a result, the move was made out of fear and fright rather than undergoing due diligence which is the general practice when shoring a business from stores to wires. Hence, the threats of cyber-attacks and other associated risks have further escalated. The increased threats required improved IT security thereby leading to a substantial number of corporate entities signing up for consultancies that offer digital dependency in business processes. This even led to a sharp increase of $20 Billion in the cyber-insurance sector between 2020-2025, which is almost triple to what it was. The market is anticipated to grow even more strongly with the additional momentum gained from digitalization. Munich Re, an insurance company that provides coverage for cyber risks has experienced meteoric growth in this sector gaining a share of 10% of the total market, making it one of the world’s leading insurers.
The Doomsday clock is stuck at 100 seconds to midnight. The world seems to be inching towards a civilization-ending apocalypse. Rising conflict, worsening climate change, and never-ending microbe attacks have the world hanging by a very thin thread of hope, perseverance, of resilience. While a larger section of the world wants to live in a world free of war, the power concentration sadly is inversely proportional to the mammoth population. Even a minimalistic endeavor of having a healthy family, working just enough to put food on the table and have access to quality education for children, seems bleak. But is it really the end or is it just a prolonged halt looking forward to an update?
The World Economic Forum has stressed ongoing and upcoming challenges created by cyber fraudsters, climate change, and space technology. As per the Global Risks Report, 2022 released on January 11, cyber security and space technology were listed as the most emerging risk sectors for the global economy followed by the existing pandemic. Cyberthreats are in no way a particular-sector-centric threat. It has the potential to affect entire civilizations as we live in a time where there is absolutely no connection-deficit. Everyone is connected with everything and vice-versa. And hence, cyber threats are growing faster than society’s ability to effectively prevent and manage them. The rise of cryptocurrencies has given birth to a new breed of online dacoits, resulting in an increased number of malware and ransomware attacks.
What can be done?
It is a race. A race between what trumps what. Ever since the lockdown around the world has been lifted, inter-state wars and conflicts have dominated the attention of decision-makers. Needless to say, the pandemic is by no means over. Similarly, the climate-associated risks are piling up and it remains the largest and most complex existential challenge of our time that warrants unparalleled action. Evidently, vaccination is on roll and has proved to be effective against the invisible enemy, and hence one needs to understand the gravity of 7 million deaths where air pollution has been a major contributor. A heating world, in general, is detrimental to human health and thus, significant obstruction to a thriving society. While a total of 110 countries are now monitoring the quality of air their population breathes, it’s simply not enough. The deterrent theory of removing factories and industries and adapting the primitive way of living is also impossible, especially in the urbanized world. Hence preserving nature and also concentrating on all-around economic development seems oxymoronic and ironical.
But, technological advancements during the wake of COVID have hinted that if ideas are shared and transcended beyond boundaries, there is hope. A simple instance of Tesla championing the sector of electric automobiles has prompted even a developing country like India to work in the furtherance of completely replacing fossil fuels with an alternative transformative source thereby resulting in an increase in electric vehicle production. A hybrid power strategy is inadvertently the need of the hour today. But how much does a country like India which promises a good mix of bright sun and wind along its coasts, requires resources to make the shift to Net Zero. Setting up hybrid power plants is also cost efficient as the plants share common equipment, electronics, and storage, as a dedicated hybrid plant can work round-the-clock with only sporadic recourse to storage.
The aforementioned mechanism is just one facet of a multi-dimensional resolution that the world warrants. The national leaders of countries can no longer lament and find nonchalant advisory bodies to pin their blames act. Furthermore, the citizens are also to be self-monitored. Citizens cannot resort to unveiling a red carpet for a government that completely negates the existence of climate change and cyber security. Rather, the citizens are to hold the constitutional entities accountable, answerable, and liable for negligence and poor performance.
Peace underpins all that is good in our society. But with each passing day, a realization of sorts that ‘peace’ is in short supply, resurfaces itself. The horrors of Covid have shown the world, that no matter how technologically advanced, monetarily rich, and systematically sustainable it looks, it is as vulnerable as one can be. The only upside that one can perceive from the horrifying pandemic, is that the loss of millions of lives and trillion dollars have only waken up the world from its deep slumber. Digitalization and globalization may have brought the world close, but the shrunk world is failing to realize that, with great inter-connectedness comes great interdependencies. And thus, the multi-dimensional crisis is not an individual but collective responsibility.
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