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Cyberspace: the invisible new frontier we need to defend

- Sanchita Chowdhury

We have taken the leap ahead, and there is no looking back: with rapid growth in computerization we have made a crossover, or more cheerily ‘digitization’ of our world. This catapult has almost succeeded in severing our bonds with days when grandma’s stories would keep the kids in the house spellbound and mesmerized. Digitally rendered music or animated stories are more thrilling to the senses after all!

Over the past few decades, so much information has been digitized and shared through communication networks that we can give ourselves the credit of being masterminds of “Cyberspace” – invisible to human eye, limitless in proportion and ever expanding in its dimensions. Quick at heels also has been the efforts in our economic, commercial and social world to sync with attributes of cyberspace - banking, trading, networking, and communications and so on. Are we equipped enough to manage and control this monster-in-the-making?

When digitization appeared to be the best means for our progress:

We are long past those days of computers when a simple speedy search and access to information would delight every soul. But we still continue to marvel the computer’s super-human ability at comparing, matching data and organizing them into patterns we are looking for. Can you contain the amazement when you hear that a statistician at Stanford University made an analysis of Shakespeare’s works to calculate the rate at which the poet introduced new words? And the statistician’s analysis did not merely stop at that!

No wonder, every field of human knowledge has been growing by leaps and bounds with mastery over computers.

How digitization began to answer every possible question:

One of the major results of digitization is that questions that were long since deemed unanswerable could now be dabbled with to draw out the nearest possible conclusions. Because information could be culled out of archives of research centers and databanks for analyzing and identifying patterns of human behavior or a trend. Searching through heaps of information was never so profitable!

Way back in 1970, a social historian and Professor at Berlin University, Arthur Imhof and his team of students meticulously fed their computer with details of nearly 30, 000 villagers, such as their date of birth, marital details, number of children, occupation and so on. Then, with appropriate programs, had the data sorted out for specific conditions. You can imagine their delight at the computers’ remarkable speed at comparing and analyzing data from such an elaborate database! They derived chunks of information that revealed social patterns such as a decline in the mortality rate of infants, rise in life expectancy of adults and similar kinds. Arriving at hypothesis was not really a decade’s work anymore.

Digitization of information put all records to better use and saved many past records in the archives from passing into oblivion due to wanting of a proper system to organize information for easy access.

How can we maintain this ever-growing digital world:

Cyberworld is indeed the invisible domain man must learn to adapt with. We must consistently evolve methods for storing, handling and processing data as the horizon of the digital world is expanding. This would surely call for beefing up the security of networking and communication systems. With a huge amount of data digitized, every common man, business, and the government has to meet the challenge of maintaining the confidentiality of data online, make the right information available at an appropriate time, and ensure that only authentic information is accessed by authorized users without being lost to the unknown and undeserving quarters.

Are we about to declare a digital war?

In recent times, reports of Cybersecurity leaks testify how vulnerable we stand with our confidential files and documents stored and shared online. Cyber threat ranges from, stealing of money from bank accounts, transferring money illegally, tampering with information to circulate fake news, leaking diplomatic documents and even defense strategies of a country. Isn’t the fiasco of cyber hacking in the recent US presidential elections making other countries reconsider their measures for defending themselves against cyberattacks in future?

So, this new frontier of cybersecurity awaits a digital war: organizations and nations at large vying for the best technology erecting firewalls to manage and monitor security systems. You may even think of a cyber defense frontier, the busiest communication hub intercepting and challenging next generation mechanics for ensuring the security of data, computers, and network along with the safe passage of information from one point to the destination. Today, however, enforcement of advanced and effective cybersecurity law is the next biggest challenge that looms over the horizon.

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