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Chinese Initiative on Jointly Building a Community With a Shared Future in Cyberspace

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The world is experiencing rapid changes unseen in a century. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken heavy losses on countries around the world. The only collective struggle may win the battle between humanity and the virus. In the face of evolving risks and challenges, humankind must augment solidarity and cooperation in cyberspace and uphold fairness and justice for the digital economy’s collective benefits.

During the second World Internet Conference held in 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping put forward four principles and a five-point plan on the Internet’s global development and governance. He advocated respect for sovereignty in cyberspace and revealed the vision of building a community with a shared future in cyberspace, offering China’s wisdom and methodology to the Internet’s global development and supremacy. In 2019, the World Internet Conference’s Organizing Committee released the perception document entitled Jointly Shaping a Community with a Shared Future in Cyberspace, further explaining this vision. The current pandemic highlights a more significant distinction and urgency to building a community with a shared future in cyberspace. We call on all nations, global organizations, Internet companies, technical societies, social organizations, and individuals to take the attitude to global governance, which is based on extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, uphold the philosophy of “achieving shared development, ensuring common security, realizing joint governance, and enjoying benefits together,” and work together to build cyberspace into a community where we can jointly advance development, safeguard security, participate in governance, and share the benefits. To this end, we would like to propose the following:

Achieving shared development

We should implement more proactive, inclusive, and synchronized policies that benefit all, speed up global information infrastructure building, promote advanced development of the digital economy, and improve public service capacity.

1. Improving Internet access and stimulating connectivity. We should further advance cooperation in communications structures such as optical cable backbone networks and international underwater cables. Based on respecting sovereignty in cyberspace and Internet policies of individual countries, we should explore adequate means of expanding Internet access and linking, and deliver development opportunities brought by the Internet to more developing countries and peoples.

2. Evolving information infrastructure construction. We need to work together to increase cooperation in information infrastructure construction, operation, and service capability. Funding should be given to the structure, application, and development of 5G, Internet of Things, and industrial Internet, to substitute new economic growth drivers and improve economic recovery and development.

3. Enhancing ICT-enabled public serviceability. We should boost experience sharing and cooperation in using digital technologies to respond to such public disasters as epidemics and natural disasters. Digital technologies should be leveraged to improve public service capability in culture and education, environmental protection, urban planning, community management, healthcare, etc.

4. Incorporating digital technologies with industrial development for economic revolution and upgrading. It is essential to integrate digital technologies with outdated industries by further applying digital, network, and intelligent technologies in industries, encouraging economic transformation and upgrading, and enabling the development, utilization, and sharing of data resources.

5. Nurturing an enabling business environment to sustain, stable, and secure global ICT industry and supply chains. We call on countries to arrange for an open, fair, and non-discriminatory business atmosphere and strengthen solidarity and cooperation in times of hardship to enhance the global market’s confidence. Good multilateral digital rules should be developed to promote mutual expectation and win-win cooperation, ensure openness, stability, and security of global ICT industry and supply chains, to encourage the healthy growth of the worldwide economy.

Ensuring common security

We campaign a cybersecurity vision that landscapes openness and cooperation and encourages Internet development while setting equal emphasis on cybersecurity to jointly support peace and security in cyberspace.

6. Strengthening strategic conjoint trust in cyberspace. Cooperation and negotiations at global, regional, multilateral, bilateral, and multi-party levels need to be encouraged to jointly maintain peace and stability in cyberspace and reinforce strategic trust among nations. We should oppose acts of attacks, deterrence, and blackmailing in cyberspace, stand against leading activities that destabilize other countries’ national security and public interests through the use of ICTs, and safeguard against arms race in cyberspace as well as attempts to politicize technical subjects, to create a peaceful atmosphere for development.

7. Stepping up the shield of information infrastructure. We should stride up cooperation in early-warning and prevention, information sharing and emergency response, and aggressively engage in experience exchanges to protect critical information infrastructure. We stand against harming the critical information infrastructure or stealing essential data from other countries through its use.

8. Improving personal information safe and data security management. It is imperative to legalize the practices of collecting, storing, using, processing, transmitting, providing, and disclosing personal information to safeguard personal information security. International exchanges and cooperation should be advanced in data security, personal information protection, and relevant rules and standards, and energies should be made to promote mutual recognition among countries on regulations and standards on personal information protection in line with the commitments of the UN Charter. Companies should not pre-install backdoors or malicious codes in their information technology equipment nor steal users’ data when providing products and services.

9. Strengthening the safeguard of minors in cyberspace. We should promote knowledge sharing on the legislation of minors protection in cyberspace, fight cybercrimes and cyberbullying targeted at children, protect their privacy on the Internet, and cultivate their digital literacy to help them develop vigorous Internet habits.

10. Increasing international cooperation on struggling cybercrimes and cyberterrorism. We should take engagements to crack down upon cybercrimes, especially their eco-system and chains, and other progress mechanism building on combating cybercrimes and cyberterrorism. We should support and take an active part in the negotiations on the global convention against cybercrimes under the United Nations’ outline. Effective coordination on legislations and practices of different countries should be made in a joint effort to tackle the threats of cybercrimes and cyberterrorism.

Realizing joint governance

We should stay dedicated to a multilateral and multi-party approach to cyberspace governance. Dialogues and consultation should be stridden up to foster a more just and impartial governance system in cyberspace.

11. Giving full play to the UN’s main-channel role in global authority in cyberspace. We should exert the UN Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) functions and the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) and support articulating codes, norms, and principles of responsible state conduct in cyberspace that are suitable to all parties under the UN framework.

12. Improving the international authority system that is shared and governed by all. We were backing the roles of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), the World Internet Conference (WIC), the Mobile World Congress (MWC), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and other platforms and encourage the participation of governments, international organizations, Internet companies, technical communities, public organizations, and individual citizens in the global governance in cyberspace.

13. Participating in Internet infrastructure resource management on the same footing. The convenience and reliability of Internet infrastructure resources for each country should be guaranteed, and efforts should be made to promote joint management and rational distribution of Internet infrastructure resources for the international community.

14. Cultivating governance on new technologies and applications. We should use expression into laws, regulations, rules, and standards to guide the use of new technologies and applications such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and the next-generation communications network, and endorse international cooperation in technical standards and moral standards.

15. Promoting capacity building on cyberspace governance. We call on countries to establish multi-channel exchange platforms and launch assistance and training programs on global management in cyberspace under the UN and other multilateral frameworks to help developing countries improve their capacity of participating in global governance.

Enjoying benefits together

We should advocate Tech for Good with a people-centered approach, contracted the digital divide, and achieve collective prosperity.

16. Sharing the paybacks of e-commerce. Countries need to diminish barriers in market access and other fields for charming trade channels. Cross-border e-commerce needs to be further encouraged. Countries need to establish mechanisms for information sharing and mutual trust and recognition. Secure and reliable digital technologies should be encouraged to enable cross-border trade.

17. Generating more opportunities for MSMEs in the digital economy. Policy backing needs to be stepped up to assist MSMEs in exploiting new-generation information technologies for innovation in products, services, processes, and organizational and business modes to generate more jobs and help MSMEs join the global value chains.

18. Strengthening backing and support to the vulnerable groups and leaving no one behindhand. We inspire experience sharing on Internet-enabled targeted poverty eradication to promote international cooperation in poverty reduction. More products and services appropriate for the elderly, the disabled, women, and children should be developed, and more policies, procedures, and technical tools should be employed to improve the digital skills of the vulnerable groups for the advancement and improvement of digital literacy among the public.  

19. Endorsing cyber cultural exchanges and mutual learning. The multiplicity of cyberculture should be respected. We advocate for tapping into adequate cultural resources to promote Internet-related exchanges and cooperation, and mutual knowledge. There is a need to establish inclusive, open, and diverse platforms and instruments for cyber cultural exchanges.

20. Contributing to the enactment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We request all countries to set great store by developing countries’ apprehensions, bridge the digital divide, and promote sustained, comprehensive, and sustainable economic growth and social development with ICTs as an enabler.

The Internet is a shared home for all humankind. The future of the human race in cyberspace has never been so closely interwoven. To conserve a peaceful, secure, open, cooperative, and orderly cyberspace is to build a better place than we all call home. Going accelerative, we stand ready to work with the global community to seize the opportunities and address the challenges to conjointly build a closer community with a shared future in cyberspace towards a brighter future for humankind.

Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan, Sinologist (ex-Diplomat), Non-Resident Fellow of CCG (Center for China and Globalization), National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Islamabad, Pakistan.

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Is your security compromised due to “Spy software” know how

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Spy software is often referred to as spyware is a set of programs that gives access to user/ administrators to track or monitor anyone’s smart devices (such as desktop, laptop, or smart phone) from anywhere across the globe.

Spyware is a threat, not only to businesses but individual users as well, since it can steal sensitive information and harm anyone’s network. It is controversial due to its frequent violation to end user’s privacy. It can attack user’s device, steal sensitive data (such as bank account or credit card information, or personal identity) or web data and share it with data firms, advertisers, or external users.

There are numerous online spyware designed for almost no cost, whose ultimate goal is to track and sell users data. Some spy software can install additional software and change the settings on user’s device, which could be difficult to identify.

Below are four main types of spyware, each has its unique features to track and record users activity:

Tracking cookies: These are the most common type of trackers, these monitor the user’s internet usage activities, such as searches, downloads, and history, for advertising and selling purposes.

System monitors: These spy software records everything on your device from emails, keystrokes, visited websites, chat-room dialogues, and much more.

Adware: This spyware is used for marketing purpose, it tracks users downloads and browser history, and suggests or displays the same or related products, this can often lead to slow device.

Trojan: This spyware is the most malicious software. It can be used to track sensitive information such as bank information or identification numbers.

Spyware can attack any operating system such as windows, android, or Apple. Windows operating systems are more prone to attack, but in past few years Apple’s operating systems are also becoming vulnerable to attacks.

According to a recent investigation by the Guardian and 16 other media organizations, found that there is a widespread and continuous abuse of NSO’s hacking spyware Pegasus, on Government officials, human rights activists, lawyers and journalists worldwide which was only intended to use against terrorists and criminals.

The research, conducted by the Pegasus technical partner Amnesty’s Security Lab, found traces of the Pegasus activity on 37 out of the 67 examined phones. Out of 37 phones, 34 were iPhones, and 23 showed signs of a Pegasus infection, while remaining 11 showed signs of attempted infection. However, only three out of 15 Android phones were infected by Pegasus software.

Attacks like the Pegasus might have a short shelf life, and are used to target specific individuals. But evidences from past have proved that attackers target large group of people and are often successful.

Below are the most common ways devices can become infected with spyware:

  • Downloading software or apps from unreliable sources or unofficial app publishers
  • Accepting cookies or pop-up without reading
  • Downloading or watching online pirated media content
  • Opening attachments from unfamiliar senders

Spyware can be extremely unsafe if you have been infected. Its damage can range from short term device issue (such as slow system, system crashing, or overheating device) to long-term financial threat.

Here’s what you can do protect your devices from spyware:

Reliable antivirus software: Firstly look for security solutions available on internet (some are available for free) and enable the antivirus software. If your system or device is already infected with virus, check out for security providers offering spyware identification and removal.

-For instance, you can install a toolkit (the Mobile Verification Tool or the MVT) provided by Amnesty International. This toolkit will alert you with presence of the Pegasus Spyware on your device.

-The toolkit scans the backup file of your device for any evidence of infection. It works on both Apple and Android operating systems, but is more accurate for Apple operating system.

-You can also download and run Norton Power Eraser a free virus removal tool.

Update your system regularly: Set up an update which runs automatically. Such automatic updates can not only block hackers from viewing your web or device activity, but can also eliminate software errors.

Be vigilant of cookies compliance: Cookies that records/ tracks users browsing habits and personally identifiable information (PII) are commonly known as adware spyware. Accept cookies only from reliable sites or download a cookie blocker.

Strong authentication passwords: Try to enable Multi-factor Authentication (MFA) wherever possible, or if not possible create different password for all accounts. Change your password for each account after a certain period of time.

-Password breaches can still occur with these precautions. In such case change your password immediately.

Be cautious of free software: Read the terms and conditions on software licenses, before accepting. Free software might be unlimited but, your data could be recorded with those free software’s.

Do not open any files from unknown or suspicious account: Do not open any email attachments or text on mobile from a suspicious, unknown, or untrustworthy source/number.

Conclusion:

Spyware could be extremely dangerous, however it can be prevented and removed by being precautious and using a trustworthy antivirus tool. Next gen technologies can also help in checking and removing malicious content. For instance, Artificial intelligence could aid the organizations identify malicious software, and frequently update its algorithms of patterns similar to predict future malware attacks.

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Implementation of virtual reality and the effects in cognitive warfare

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Photo: Lux Interaction/Unsplash

With the increasing use of new technologies in warfare situations, virtual reality presents an opportunity for the domain of cognitive warfare. Nowadays, cognitive skills are treated equally as their physical counterparts, seeking to standardize new innovative techniques. Virtual reality (VR) can be used as a tool that can increase the cognitive capabilities of soldiers. As it is understandable in today’s terms, VR impacts the brain directly. That means that our visual organs (eyes) see one object or one surrounding area, but brain cells perceive and react to that differently. VR has been used extensively in new teaching methods because of the increased probability of improving the memory and learning capabilities of students.

Besides its theoretical teaching approach and improvement of learning, VR can be used systematically towards more practical skills. In medicine for example students can have a full medicine lesson on a virtual human being seeing the body projected in 3D, revolutionizing the whole field of medicine. If that can be used in the medical field, theoretically it will be possible to be used in combat situations, projecting a specific battlefield in VR, increasing the chances of successful engagement, and reducing the chance of casualties. Knowing your terrain is equally important as knowing your adversary.

The use of VR will also allow us to experience new domains relating to the physical health of a person. It is argued that VR might provide us with the ability to effectively control pain management. Since VR can stimulate visual senses, then it would be safe to say that this approach can have higher effectiveness in treating chronic pain, depression, or even PTSD. The idea behind this usage is that the brain itself is already powerful enough, yet sometimes when pain overwhelms us we tend to lose effectiveness on some of our senses, such as the visual sense. An agonizing pain can blurry our vision, something that we cannot control; unless of course theoretically, we use VR. The process can consist of different sounds and visual aids that can trick the mind into thinking that it is somewhere that might be the polar opposite of where it is. Technically speaking, the mind would be able to do that simply because it works as a powerful computer, where our pain receptors can override and actually make us think that we are not in such terrible pain.

Although the benefits of VR could be useful for our health we would still need to deal with problems that concern our health when we use a VR set.  It is possible that the brain can get overloaded with new information and the new virtual environments. VR poses some problems to some people, regarding the loss of the real environment and creating feelings of nausea or extreme headaches. As a result, new techniques from cognitive psychologists have emerged to provide a solution to the problem. New technologies have appeared that can desaturate colors towards the edge of the headset in order to limit the probability of visual confusion. Besides that, research shows that even the implementation of a virtual nose when someone wears a VR headset can prevent motion sickness, something that our brain does already in reality.

However, when it comes to combatants and the implementation of VR in soldiers, one must think of maybe more effective and fast solutions to eliminate the problems that concern the confusion of the brain. Usage of specific pharmaceuticals might be the key. One example could be Modafinil which has been prescribed in the U.S. since 1998 to treat sleep-related conditions. Researchers believe it can produce the same effects as caffeine. With that being said, the University of Oxford analyzed 24 studies, where participants were asked to complete complex assignments after taking Modafinil and found out that those who took the drug were more accurate, which suggests that it may affect higher cognitive functions.

Although some of its long-term effects are yet to be studied, Modafinil is by far the safest drug that can be used in cognitive situations. Theoretically speaking, if a long exposure to VR can cause headaches and an inability to concentrate, then an appropriate dose of Modafinil can counter the effects of VR. It can be more suitable and useful to use on soldiers, whose cognitive skills are better than civilians, to test the full effect of a mix of virtual technology and pharmaceuticals. VR can be a significant military component and a simulation training program. It can provide new cognitive experiences based on foreign and unknown terrains that might be difficult to be approached in real life. New opportunities arise every day with the technologies, and if anyone wanted to take a significant advantage over adversaries in the cognitive warfare field, then VR would provide a useful tool for military decision-making.

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Vaccine Equity and Beyond: Intellectual Property Rights Face a Crucial Test

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The debate over intellectual property rights (IPRs), particularly patents, and access to medicine is not new. IPRs are considered to drive innovation by protecting the results of investment-intensive R&D, yet arguably also foster inequitable access to affordable medicines.

In a global public health emergency such as the COVID-19 pandemic, where countries face acute shortages of life-saving vaccines, should public health be prioritized over economic gain and the international trade rules designed to protect IPRs?

The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs), to which all 164 member states of the World Trade Organization (WTO) are a party, establish minimum standards for protecting different forms of IPRs. 

In October 2020, India and South Africa – countries with strong generic drug manufacturing infrastructure – invoked WTO rules to seek a temporary waiver of IPRs (patents, copyrights, trade secrets, and industrial designs) on equipment, drugs, and vaccines related to the “prevention, containment or treatment of COVID-19.” A waiver would mean that countries could locally produce equipment and vaccines without permission from holders of IPRs. This step would serve to eliminate the monopolistic nature of IPRs that give exclusive rights to the holder of IPRs and enable them to impose procedural licensing constraints.

Brazil, Japan, the European Union (EU), and the United States (US) initially rejected the waiver proposal. That stance changed with the rise of new COVID-19 mutations and the associated increase in deaths, with several countries facing a public health crisis due to vaccine supply shortages. The position of many states began shifting in favor of the India-South Africa proposal, which now has the backing of 62 WTO members, with the US declaring support for the intent of the temporary waiver to secure “better access, more manufacturing capability, more shots in arms.” Several international bodies, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights have voiced support.

Some countries disagree about the specific IPRs to be waived or the mechanisms by which IPRs should be made available. The EU submitted a proposal to use TRIPS flexibilities such as compulsory licensing, while others advocate for voluntary licensing. The TRIPS Council is conducting meetings to prepare an amended proposal to the General Council (the WTO’s highest-level decision-making body in Geneva) by the end of July 2021.

The crisis in India illustrates the urgency of the situation. India produces and supplies Covishield, licensed by AstraZeneca; and Covaxin, which is yet to be included on the WHO’s Emergency Use Listing (EUL). Due to the devastating public health crisis, India halted its export of vaccines and caused a disruption in the global vaccine supply, even to the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) program. In the meantime, the world’s poorest nations lack sufficient, critical vaccine supplies.

International law recognizes some flexibility in public health emergencies. An example would be the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health in 2001, which, while maintaining the commitments, stresses the need for TRIPS to be part of the wider national and international action to address public health problems. Consistent with that, the body of international human rights law, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), protects the right to the highest attainable standard of health.

But as we race against time, the current IPR framework may not allow for the swift response required. It is the rigorous requirements before a vaccine is considered safe to use under Emergency Use Authorizations and procedural delays which illuminate why IPR waivers on already approved vaccines are needed. Capitalizing on the EUL’s approved vaccines that have proven efficacy to date and easing IPR restrictions will aid in the timely supply and access of vaccines.

A TRIPS waiver may not solve the global vaccine shortage. In fact, some argue that the shortages are not an inherent flaw in the IP regime, considering other supply chain disruptions that persist, such as the ones disrupting microchips, pipette tips, and furniture. However, given that patent licensing gives a company a monopoly on vaccine commercialization, other companies with manufacturing capacity cannot produce the vaccine to scale up production and meet supply demands.

Neither does a temporary waiver mean that pharmaceutical companies cannot monetize their work. States should work with pharmaceuticals in setting up compensation and insurance schemes to ensure adequate remuneration.

At the College of Law at Hamad Bin Khalifa University, our aim is to address today’s legal challenges with a future-oriented view. We see COVID-19 as a case study in how we respond to imminent and existential threats. As global warming alters the balance of our ecosystem, threats will cascade in a way that is hard to predict. When unpredictable health emergencies emerge, it will be human ingenuity that helps us overcome them. Even the global IP regime, as a legal system that regulates ideas, is being tested, and should be agile enough to respond in time, like the scientists who sprang into action and worked tirelessly to develop the vaccines that will soon bring back a semblance of normal life as we know it.

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