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“There will be no border between cyberspace and real life”

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An interview with Uroš Svete

Cyberspace is becoming increasingly more important and integrated in all spheres of our lives. More and more critical services are related to information and communication sector, which means that financial, transportation, health care systems, systems for support for water and food, various industries and energy are interrelated and interdependent.

This critical infrastructure is mostly associated with the World Wide Web, automated functions and the ability to modify and control remotely. All this can allow intruders in most systems that are essential to our lives. More importantly, the question is how to protect ourselves against intentional and unintentional threats to the area dominated by decentralization, without clear borders and anonymity. We become aware of cyber threats only when there arouse problems, but unfortunately usually only temporary. It is also very difficult to evaluate our dependence on ICT (information communication technology).

Cyber power is playing important role and is based on Economist Intelligence Unit defined as the ability to withstand cyber-attacks and to deploy the digital infrastructure necessary for a productive and secure economy. It is a double-edged sword. On one hand is a key to progress and on the other due to dependence it creates new vulnerabilities and risks. Cybersecurity focuses on protecting computers, mobile devices, tablets, networks, programs and data from unauthorized access or manipulation. The number of internet users is growing and it had increased from year 2000 to 2014 for 741%. In a year 2014 42, 3% (3,036,749,340) of world population was active in cyberspace. Understanding cybersecurity is the first step to protecting yourself, your family and your organization. We talked with head of Defense Studies at Faculty of Social Sciences in Ljubljana Uroš Svete about cyber security and the effects it has on real life.

What does term cyber space mean and which are the main actors and most important organizations in this field?

I understand cyber space as a tie between electromagnetic sphere, interconnected devices (including Internet of thinks) and users. Without any doubts main actors are technological companies (like Apple, MS, Google), influenced IT experts (hackers), NATO, OECD, intelligence services (NSA, GCHQ, China). Supranational organizations can contribute to political awareness, technical standards, information and knowledge exchange (important for technologically less developed member states). Important are joint boards like ENISA or Cyber security Centre of Excellence as well.

Which are top cyber threats and how does and can cyber space affect real life?

Top cyber threats are threats to individual privacy, economic espionage, and critical infrastructure. The internet of things is the answer to the second question. With internet of things there will be no border between cyber space and real life anymore. The main targets of cyber-attacks are individuals (as part of BOTNET, phishing), private companies (in sense of espionage), Critical infrastructure. Cyber threat that made the most damage in real life so far is Stuxnet, Estonia under cyber-attack in 2007.

Does development in information communication technology and its’ greeter usage means also more vulnerabilities and threats? Is cyber war real or just a fiction?

Not necessary. Vulnerabilities and threats depend on technical mistakes and (intentional) misuse. We cannot stop technological development. So have to adapt to new reality. And one think more, technology is not good or bad. The human being is. At the moment cyber war is neither real nor fiction. It is possible but demands actors technologically developed at the same level. Today’s cyber war is more likely to the propaganda (psychological war) waging on the Internet. It is important part of modern conflicts but absolutely not decisive.

What can we expect in 2015 in realm of cyberspace and cybersecurity? What trends will be shown in the future and what are security predictions for years ahead?

Internetisation of conventional technology (Internet of things) Cars, refrigerators, and heat systems will become a part of cyber space. Physical money will disappear probably. But much more security relevant is 3D printing which will be expanded. It will change global production and state control over it.

 

According to ENISA (The European Union Agency for Network and Information Security) Threat Landscape report web web-based attacks are increasing and with it also number of data breaches, loss of tens of millions of data records, exposed identities and with cyber-crime and espionage big monetary annual global losses. The key recommendations for better protection from more and more sophisticated and numerous cyber-attacks that are occurring on daily bases based on Uroš Svete are better information security awareness of employees, a question of outsourcing (Apple decides to fire outsourcing company responsible for physical security), penetration tests and technological standards development. Since we cannot reach 100% security we need with comprehensive cyber policies, clear cybersecurity plans, laws, cybercrime response and enforcement authorities such as CERTs (computer emergency response team)minimize threats to cybersecurity. It is importantto encourage development of technical skills, education, awareness, innovations, government commitments and cooperation between public and private sphere.

Teja Palko is a Slovenian writer. She finished studies on Master’s Degree programme in Defense Science at the Faculty of Social Science at University in Ljubljana.

Science & Technology

Iran among five pioneers of nanotechnology

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Prioritizing nanotechnology in Iran has led to this country’s steady placement among the five pioneers of the nanotechnology field in recent years, and approximately 20 percent of all articles provided by Iranian researchers in 2020 are relative to this area of technology.

Iran has been introduced as the 4th leading country in the world in the field of nanotechnology, publishing 11,546 scientific articles in 2020.

The country held a 6 percent share of the world’s total nanotechnology articles, according to StatNano’s monthly evaluation accomplished in WoS databases.

There are 227 companies in Iran registered in the WoS databases, manufacturing 419 products, mainly in the fields of construction, textile, medicine, home appliances, automotive, and food.

According to the data, 31 Iranian universities and research centers published more than 50 nano-articles in the last year. 

In line with China’s trend in the past few years, this country is placed in the first stage with 78,000 nano-articles (more than 40 percent of all nano-articles in 2020), and the U.S. is at the next stage with 24,425 papers. These countries have published nearly half of the whole world’s nano-articles.

In the following, India with 9 percent, Iran with 6 percent, and South Korea and Germany with 5 percent are the other head publishers, respectively.

Almost 9 percent of the whole scientific publications of 2020, indexed in the Web of Science database, have been relevant to nanotechnology.

There have been 191,304 nano-articles indexed in WoS that had to have a 9 percent growth compared to last year. The mentioned articles are 8.8 percent of the whole produced papers in 2020.

Iran ranked 43rd among the 100 most vibrant clusters of science and technology (S&T) worldwide for the third consecutive year, according to the Global Innovation Index (GII) 2020 report.

The country experienced a three-level improvement compared to 2019.

Iran’s share of the world’s top scientific articles is 3 percent, Gholam Hossein Rahimi She’erbaf, the deputy science minister, has announced.

The country’s share in the whole publications worldwide is 2 percent, he noted, highlighting, for the first three consecutive years, Iran has been ranked first in terms of quantity and quality of articles among Islamic countries.

Sourena Sattari, vice president for science and technology has said that Iran is playing the leading role in the region in the fields of fintech, ICT, stem cell, aerospace, and is unrivaled in artificial intelligence.

From our partner Tehran Times

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Science & Technology

Free And Equal Internet Access As A Human Right

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Having internet access in a free and equal way is very important in contemporary world. Today, there are more than 4 billion people who are using internet all around the world. Internet has become a very important medium by which the right to freedom of speech and the right to reach information can be exercised. Internet has a central tool in commerce, education and culture.

Providing solutions to develop effective policies for both internet safety and equal Internet access must be the first priority of governments. The Internet offers individuals power to seek and impart information thus states and organizations like UN have important roles in promoting and protecting Internet safety. States and international organizations play a key role to ensure free and equal Internet access.

The concept of “network neutrality is significant while analyzing equal access to Internet and state policies regulating it. Network Neutrality (NN) can be defined as the rule meaning all electronic communications and platforms should be exercised in a non-discriminatory way regardless of their type, content or origin. The importance of NN has been evident in COVID-19 pandemic when millions of students in underdeveloped regions got victimized due to the lack of access to online education.

 Article 19/2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights notes the following:

“Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”

Internet access and network neutrality directly affect human rights. The lack of NN undermines human rights and causes basic human right violations like violating freedom of speech and freedom to reach information. There must be effective policies to pursue NN. Both nation-states and international organizations have important roles in making Internet free, safe and equally reachable for the people worldwide. States should take steps for promoting equal opportunities, including gender equality, in the design and implementation of information and technology. The governments should create and maintain, in law and in practice, a safe and enabling online environment in accordance with human rights.

It is known that, the whole world has a reliance on internet that makes it easy to fullfill basic civil tasks but this is also threatened by increasing personal and societal cyber security threats. In this regard, states must fulfill their commitment to develop effective policies to attain universal access to the Internet in a safe way.

 As final remarks, it can be said that, Internet access should be free and equal for everyone. Creating effective tools to attain universal access to the Internet cannot be done only by states themselves. Actors like UN and EU have a major role in this process as well.

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Science & Technology

Future Energy Systems Need Clear AI Boundaries

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Today, almost 60% of people worldwide have access to the Internet via an ever-increasing number of electronic devices. And as Internet usage grows, so does data generation.

Data keeps growing at unprecedented rates, increasingly exceeding the abilities of any human being to analyse it and discover its underlying structures.

Yet data is knowledge. This is where artificial intelligence (AI) comes in. Today’s high-speed computing systems can “learn” from experience and, thus, effectively replicate human decision-making.

Besides holding its own among global chess champions, AI aids in converting unstructured data into actionable knowledge. At the same time, it enables the creation of even more insightful AI – a win-win for all. However, this doesn’t happen without challenges along the way.

Commercial uses of AI have expanded steadily in recent years across finance, healthcare, education and other sectors. Now, with COVID-19 lockdowns and travel restrictions, many countries have turned to innovative technologies to halt the spread of the virus.

The pandemic, therefore, has further accelerated the global AI expansion trend.

Energy systems need AI, too.

Rapidly evolving smart technology is helping to make power generation and distribution more efficient and sustainable. AI and the Big Data that drives it have become an absolute necessity.  Beyond just facilitating and optimising, these are now the basic tools for fast, smart decision making.

With the accelerating shift to renewable power sources, AI can help to reduce operating costs and boost efficiency. Crucially, AI-driven “smart grids” can manage variable supply, helping to maximise the use of solar and wind power.

Read more in IRENA’s Innovation Toolbox.

Risks must be managed to maximise the benefits.

AI usage in the energy sector faces expertise-related and financial constraints.

Decision makers, lacking specialised knowledge, struggle to appreciate the wide-ranging benefits of smart system management. In this respect, energy leaders have proven more conservative than those in other sectors, such as healthcare.

Meanwhile, installing powerful AI tools without prior experience brings considerable risks. Data loss, poor customisation, system failures, unauthorised access – all these errors can bring enormous costs.

Yet like it or not, interconnected devices are on the rise.

What does this all mean for the average consumer?

Smart phones, smart meters and smart plugs, connected thermostats, boilers and smart charging stations have become familiar, everyday items. Together, such devices can form the modern “smart home”, ideally powered by rooftop solar panels.

AI can help all of us, the world’s energy consumers, become prosumers, producing and storing our own energy and interacting actively with the wider market. Our data-driven devices, in turn, will spawn more data, which helps to scale up renewables and maximise system efficiency.

But home data collection raises privacy concerns. Consumers must be clearly informed about how their data is used, and by whom. Data security must be guaranteed. Consumer privacy regulations must be defined and followed, with cybersecurity protocols in place to prevent data theft.

Is the future of AI applications in energy bright?

Indeed, the outlook is glowing, but only if policy makers and societies strike the right balance between innovation and risk to ensure a healthy, smart and sustainable future.

Much about AI remains to be learned. As its use inevitably expands in the energy sector, it cannot be allowed to work for the benefit of only a few. Clear strategies need to be put in place to manage the AI use for the good of all.

IRENA

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