Five down, five to go, in our top ten cybersecurity threats for 2008, after this one. I will reorder these information security threats later. Here is another top information security threat for 2008:
— Subversion of democratic political processes.
Regardless of your political orientation, no one can argue that the US presidential election of 2000, where Al Gore won the popular vote and George Bush won the electorial vote by a political ruling, has not changed the world dramatically and forever. Al Gore conceded the presidency and then went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize (see footnote).
Democratic processes can be subverted by information technologies. One of the threats we often read about is subverting voting machines and vote counting. However, another threat, one more difficult to quantify, is the manipulation of the media and public opinion for political, social and economic gain.
The US presidential election of 2000 leaves us little doubt that political parties, and their operatives, know no limit in their quest to gain or maintain power. The stakes are extremely high. Taxpayers money (our money!), an unimaginable large amount of money, are allocated and spent based on the outcome of just about every political process. The amount of money governments spend, especially the US government, is staggering.
Remember when blogging (and the Internet) was by “the common citizen” – a grass roots way to communicate? Now, the blogosphere is a mainstream media and the politicans are operating with full force, fully funded. The same is true on and in social networking sites, YouTube, and virtual worlds like Second Life.
This threat is often called “information warfare” when one nation manipulates cyberspace for political gain. What do we call this when our domestic political parties do the same thing using information technologies to subvert democratic processes?
This brings up another basic question.
What really is “democracy” when elections are now decided by who can win domestic political “cyberwars” or “cybercampaigns”?
The subversion of democratic processes is a very real cybersecurity threat in 2008 and beyond. The world has changed dramatically, and it will continue to change in ways we cannot imagine. In fact, in my opinion, science fiction, where gory monsters and aliens have conflicts with humans, seems pale compared to what the future brings our planet Earth.
Footnote: Since this is not a political blog, I’ll end this paragraph by saying that I voted for Al Gore. In full disclaimer, I actually worked for Al Gore’s father as a legislative assistant when I was a college student in Tennessee.