Cybernapping

Whenever I reflect on the amount of information that is available to me with a click of a button I am in awe of the technology that humankind has created. What was thought to be impossible 50 years ago is now the norm for my generation and will be the norm for future generations alike. The Information Age is a marvel of human achievement and ingenuity, which surpasses that of the Industrial Revolution. Some critics might argue that the information age would not be possible without the Industrial Revolution, while that is most certainly true make no mistake the Information Age will have a much greater impact on human society as a whole.

Information systems continue to advance the possibilities for human achievement and progress continues to grow as well. However, this growth and dependency on information systems are not without its drawbacks, humankind is now being faced with an unprecedented issue pertaining to cyber law. The Human race has had laws pertaining to murder, theft, and property for thousands of years and yet we still get these cases wrong at times even with all of those years of practice. With the dependency our society now has on information systems, it is vital that we have laws and agencies in place that are capable of protecting our interest. This is a pretty high demand especially since the first piece of legislation written in the U.S. pertaining to the criminalization of hacking computer systems was only written 30 years ago. This is not to say I believe our laws and agencies that are already in place do a bad job, in fact, I believe they do a decent job when all things are considered. I am simply stating that with this being such a new issue that can have serious repercussions on human society if something goes wrong, we should be spending a lot more time and attention on the matter at hand.

For example, over this past weekend, an unprecedented cyberattack known as WannaCry affected more than 200,000 victims in 150 countries. WannaCry is a ransomware attack enacted by hackers to lock down computer systems with the threat of deleting all the information stored on the computers unless a ransom was paid. Welcome to 21st-century crime, were stealing and blackmailing takes place over the internet. This so-called cybernapping has the potential of becoming one of the most defining crimes of the 21st century. Overall the possibilities for online crimes are endless especially when we consider how dependent we are on information systems as a whole. What if next time hackers attack the stock markets, or air traffic control, or the U.S. military itself, the consequences would be exponential.

Ironically the software responsible for WannaCry was originally in the possession of the NSA as an Internet vulnerability until it was stolen and weaponized. Microsoft President Brad Smith says, “This WannaCry cyberattack was like the U.S. military having some Tomahawk missiles stolen.” He continues to say, “We have seen vulnerabilities stored by the CIA show up on WikiLeaks, and now this vulnerability stolen from the NSA has affected customers around the world.” It is clear that actions regarding the handling of such software should be taken immediately.

That is why it is imperative to focus on laws and possible countermeasures pertaining to information systems. As far as the law is concerned there should be a continuous focus on how to handle and prosecute hackers, but more importantly, there should be laws limiting or governing how vulnerabilities are stocked-pilled and stored by agencies like the CIA and NSA. Legislation of this nature could make it more difficult or impossible for hackers to get their hands on government made vulnerabilities which would prevent their own systems from being used against them or the general public. In the meantime, simple steps like keeping computers updated, backing files up on an external hard drive, and installing security software can prevent computers from being infected by ransomware and any other software design for malicious use.