Monday, June 9, 2014

Internet: A generator of fear

“Fear is the foundation of most governments.” This was not said just by anyone, but by the second president of the United States, John Adams. It certainly seems that governments around the world are driven by a homogeneous fear of losing their power.

Probably such attachment to government positions is causing an increasing distrust in social networks. States such as China or Turkey block Facebook or Twitter at their convenience. In Spain, on the other hand, they begin to look with questioning eyes for defamation, glorification of terrorism, incitement to violence, etc. on social media. Where are the boundaries of freedom of expression? Where does crime start?

However, there is a growing number of government institutions that see social media as closer channel to citizens, where they can monitor the state on different issues and release warnings or specific information. A few weeks ago the Spanish royal family launched its Twitter profile and now the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has done the same. Actually this was its first tweet: "We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet."

But the other side of the coin of social networking and Internet communications is espionage. Intelligence agencies like the CIA or the NSA are in the public eye since Edward Snowden revealed some very questionable practices. Internet giants like Google have been forced to take action on the matter and strengthen the security of their systems with encryption and building their own networks in order to re-gain the users’ trust.

In any case, citizens who have nothing to hide are surely even more concerned about cybercriminals breiking into the systems of companies or institutions that stored our personal information. If a cybercrook got our card details he could clear us out in the blink of an eye. If he obtains our full name, address and ID, he could impersonate our identity and get us into serious trouble. Therefore, customers of AutoNation automobile retailer and the 16,000 employees of the U.S. Command in South Korea who have been compromised their personal details should be very careful about the use that hackers could make of the data they obtained in both attacks.

Surely the list will not end here since several vulnerabilities have been discovered on the Linux kernel that, among other things, could allow an attacker to take control of a system or perpetrate a DoS offensive. Many of you will wonder if governments are so concerned about combating and solving these threats as they do with the inflammatory comments on social networks. What is your opinion about this?

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