With the development of computer technologies, cyber espionage has become a vital issue. The Internet and various computer tools make the search for information quick and easy. However, accessibility of information leads to inevitable information leaks. This facilitates cyber spying. Cyber espionage is a form of cyber attack. The primary research question that this paper attempts to answer is: is cyber espionage a genuine threat?
Is Cyber Espionage a Genuine Threat?
The paper aims at reviewing the existing scholarly sources that deal with the issue of cyber espionage. This is a necessary step to make in order to determine whether it is an actual threat and find a way to reduce or overcome it.
The basic hypothesis of this research is that cyber espionage is a genuine and escalating threat, and its implications have the ability to change the balance of global power. The independent variables important for the research are the number and nature of cyber spying cases. Dependent variables include the number and origin of sources that are discussed.
The choice of literature regarding the problem of cyber espionage is rather wide. For example, the book Cyber Spying by Ted Fair describes how average computer users can become cyber spies. The author discusses the reasons that cause ordinary people to start cyber spying. He also attempts to analyze psychological motivation of cyber spies and formulate a code of ethics that cyber spies seem to follow. In the researcher’s opinion, social networks are the main tool of cyber espionage since they facilitate leaks of compromising information. This is why the author pays special attention to privacy concerns.
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Numerous articles are dedicated to cyber espionage used by the governmental structures and increased spying-related crime. The book Cybercrime and Espionage: the Analysis of Subversive Multi-Vector Threats by Will Gragido and John Pirc discusses the problem of cyber spying expansion. The author focuses on psychological analysis of cyber spies’ activities. Cyber spying is considered a threat to the next generation. Acceleration of IT technologies increases the risk of sudden and advanced military attacks and political conflicts. Minor crimes related to cyber spying such as blackmailing and scamming have become a kind of business. Sometimes, cyber spying infringes on human rights. For example, the CIA develops new ways of spying through phones. This infringes on privacy of the citizens. While on the Internet, users usually voluntarily provide personal information, in phone conversations people normally do not expect to be overheard. The expansion of cyber spying has changed the conventional attitudes of intelligence services and led to significant restructuring of security agencies in many countries, including America and Russia. Much research has been done on the issue of preventing cyber spying and improving Internet security policies. For example, the article “The Anatomy of Cyber Espionage by Chinese Hackers” by Aditya Sood and Richard Enbody reveals the vulnerable side of the Internet. Most cyber espionage is done through hacking, and since 2000, the number of hacker attacks has been growing every year. The authors describe hacking techniques and discusse various protective measures, starting from development of online military defense systems and ending with personal privacy options for ordinary users.
Further research needs to be done on the issue of military usage of cyber espionage. Articles that deal with military strategy and theory of espionage can be useful for this. This research plan includes analyzing several security-related books, including The Cuckoo’s Egg: Tracking a Spy through the Maze of Computer Technology by Cliff Stoll. This book seems to be useful for research since it provides information about defense from espionage and the means for tracking hackers. The book is aimed at average users. This is why the methods described by the author seem to be easy to understand and definitely usable for research purposes.
All above-mentioned facts lead to the conclusion that cyber espionage indeed is an escalating threat. The Internet, mobile connections, and other innovations of modern time have caused a number of potential risks that should be taken into consideration by any user. The risk of spying is always present, no matter what activity users are involved in, which is why constant awareness of the threat is highly important.
Methodology and Research Strategy
As long as the research has been chosen to be conducted in terms of qualitative data analysis, it is necessary to admit that the applied methodology has a form of correlative analysis. In other words, the independent and the dependent variables are described. As it has been already mentioned, the independent variables are presented by the types of cyber espionage, while the dependent ones are frequency and origins of the cyber spying evidence. The study draws links between these variables in order to identify what type of cyber espionage is the most frequent regarding its sources and purposes. The methodology can be justified by the fact that quantitative data does not give an account on the essence of cyber espionage because Internet spying consists of various forms, and each of them is caused by a particular complex of reasons. It is also worth mentioning that the research is closely tied to a methodological framework in terms of the international law. Espionage in cyberspace is not regulated by any physical as well as virtual organs. Therefore, only federal, state, and the international laws perform regulative control, which is not effective since cyber espionage cannot be referred to particular physical territory.
To return to the subject of the correlative analysis, it is sourced with a sufficient volume of the related empirical literature that provides evidences of cyber espionage. It is becoming increasingly apparent that qualitative methodology is not capable of depicting the entire situation within the terms of the subject. Instead, it attempts to reveal the essence of cyber espionage and typical reasons for its proactive development in case such evidence can be justified. First, this type of methodology is able to address the issue of cyber espionage being a genuine threat. Provided that this statement is proved, the issue of escalating threat regarding cyber espionage will be underpinned accordingly. All analyzed cases have been referred to empirical literature that has served the function of orientation and framework.
To be more specific, a major contribution has been made by the books Research Handbook on International Law and Cyber space by Nicholas Tsagouris and Russel Buchan as well as he Cuckoo’s Egg: Tracking a Spy through the Maze of Computer Technology by Cliff Stoll. These books describe legal perspective of cyber espionage and include description of original types of spying in cyberspace, definition, and explanation of certain cases of cyber and traditional espionage and their being subject to particular international and federal laws. The books have managed to create a meaningful theoretical ground for the research. As a result, the research has been conducted in terms of distinct methodological framework so that limitations to the findings are expected to be regarded as a drawback based on the objective reasons. The rest of the literature, however, has made its significant contribution as well, but all central issues of the research have been referred to these books. Still, the research has its limitations so that they are worth a description in more detail.
In fact, it is appropriate to make a comment on the peculiarities of the limitations. Surprisingly, limitations are a quite positive sign in terms of the study. As long as the framework of the research is legal-based, the rest of the similar cases are a subject to the same international and federal laws. Hence, the study does not address the entire situation regarding the problem of cyber espionage, but it creates a reliable source for orientation in the further investigation of this problem. The study focuses on the indication of the most threatening form of cyber espionage so that its findings can be potentially important for the future improvement of prevention and studying espionage in cyberspace. This is the main point about the methodology and the strategy of the research so that findings and qualitative data analysis should be issued.
Findings and Analysis
As the result of the research, the study has indicated the following types of cyber espionage as the independent variables. First, it is copying materials and content for private and public use. In other words, it is a so-called piracy or violation of copyrights. This type of cyberespionage presupposes stealing of some content and spreading it online without a permission of the owner. In fact, it is the most widespread form of cyber espionage. The law is not able to regulate that as long as the Internet is generally regarded as a method of placement and distribution of content. Namely, pirates do not spread copyrighted content under the other name, brand, or trademark. That is why the law of intellectual property is not violated technically. Certain regulative controls obviously exist but they are not sufficiently effective for addressing such a common problem. Still, the type of cyber espionage is not genuine or proactively escalating.
In fact, there is no possible way to decrease piracy, as it will reflect on the promotion of the original content. What is more, the original owners do not have any legal grounds for accusing pirates of copyright violation since the brand or trademark coincides with the custom titles of content. Piracy has being existing long before the era of Internet so that it cannot be regarded as a genuine form of cyber espionage. It is also not capable of making a considerable harm to the national safety, infrastructure, or top-secret data. Therefore, a high correlation of the type of frequency and homogeneous origins do not testify about this type of cyber spying as an escalating threat to the world society. That is why this pair of variables has been excluded from the list of potential threats.
The other form of cybercrimes is cyberbullying. It is usually based on the violation of human rights. In other words, it presupposes promotion, description, and appreciation of such actions as abuse, harassment, and mocking of minorities, social groups, genders, and ages. It may be a simple insult made online in social networks, chats, and forums. Usually, such actions are a subject to John Perry Barlow’s Declaration of the Independence in Cyberspace and United Nation’s Charter of Non-intervention and Sovereignty. The United States has its own federal and state laws that actually protect the same human rights, but the related responsibility is referred to state or federal court of law. Thus, violation of human rights via Internet is an equal subject to the legal responsibility as well as the same actions in the physical world.
However, cyberbullying is merely a form of abusive behavior rather than a new form of cybercrime. In other words, the same actions are taken in the real world on a day-to-day basis so that it cannot be regarded as a genuine and escalating threat. Violation of human rights is a proactively developing danger for the entire global society, but its cyber form does not have to be regarded as drastically influential factor. Even though these actions are quite frequent online, they do not obtain the major part of the cyberspace so that it cannot imply any negative consequences for the society. Thus, this form of cybercrime has been also excluded from a particular focus of the research. Again, one should pay attention to the fact that independent variable is correlated with a high frequency and similar origins of this type of cyber espionage. That is why it is necessary to move onto the discussion of the next independent variable.
In spite of contemporary means of cyber protection, the threat of cyberterrorism emerges on a regular basis as malicious software is designed with a proactive frequency. Authorities as well as scholars are aware of such threat so that they publically express their anxiety concerning the negative consequences of cyberterrorist hacking attacks on governmental as well as private computer networks. Thus, a current state of this type of cyber espionage is quite unclear regarding the validity of cyberterrorism threat exposed to the U.S. and world infrastructure. The concerns regarding the outcomes of cyberterrorism were introduced to society by the extent of real-life terrorism, especially taking into consideration the tragedy of 9/11. Still, a considerably little number of cases of aggressively strong cyber assaults has been reported in recent years. Therefore, there is a distinct doubt whether cyberterrorism is a genuine threat to the national and global infrastructure or it is a result of active media and social gossips.
Similarly, cyberterrorism is just another form of terrorism that will be used in combination of violent shelling, ambushes, and capturing of civilians. On the contrary, cyberterrorism is a subject to a separate international and U.S. federal laws though. Consequently, an international community has managed to find ways of protection from cyberterrorism even though hackers are usually one step ahead regarding the development of malicious software and means of network intrusion. Eventually, it should be admitted that cyberterrorism is not a genuine as well as not escalating threat as an appropriate response and incident management are in the constant development. Hacking assaults will keep occurring, but every single time they are likely to face a meaningful response because cyberterrorism became a comprising part of terroristic activities. Conversely, cyber espionage in its primary meaning is an obvious threat that keeps escalating.
There are numerous reasons to consider the original cyber espionage to be a real threat, but it is necessary to be explicit about what is exactly meant by this term. It is an intentional intrusion in the governmental or any other top-secret database or network in order to retrieve certain information for terroristic, fraud, or any other activities by foreign as well as native representatives of a particular state. Cyber espionage has become a central issue in 2013 after a scandal with Edward Snowden and malicious attacks on Iran Oil Company. The United States were blamed by Russian Kaspersky Lab for contributing to the development of the malware, but the argument has raged unabated. In any case, the number of cyber espionage acts has started increasing in recent years, which is obviously a negative tendency. It is also essential to refer to external factors such as geopolitics and macroeconomics. These spheres are in a state of constant fluctuations nowadays so that they make their impact as well.
This is the most recent evidence of cybercrimes but is not actually genuine though. Spying has existed long time before the Internet era, but such form of espionage is increasingly escalating. It can be explained by the fact that geopolitical relationships between the United States and Russia have worsened considerably. In addition, a proactive development of ISIL is also a reason to regard cyber espionage as the most escalating form of cybercrimes. It is becoming increasingly apparent that maximum of correlation between the independent and dependent variables does not witness about the relevant phenomena. Cyber espionage is a recently emerged threat and its origins are relatively vague. Still, it exposes a real threat to the global stability, and particular reasons for such findings are worth discussion as well.
As the analysis of the findings can attest, the most frequent forms of cyber espionage do not necessarily mean that they are escalating ones. One may argue that the research has chosen an inappropriate methodology and framework, but nobody would deny the fact that the outcomes of the research are more important that certain technical issues. In any case, the correlation between the independent and dependent variables is an indicator of the least threatening form of cyber spying. It can be obviously traced throughout the entire description of findings. The violation of copyrights has demonstrated the highest correlation of variables while a factual extent of the problem is far from being critical. At the same time, a medium frequency and variety of origins is a justified reason to consider original cyber espionage to be the most threatening form. It can be explained by the fact that a variety of origins is caused by an according variety of purposes. Therefore, a number of potential purposes for use of cyber espionage lead to a conclusion that this is more dangerous phenomenon than it may be expected as long as there are more possibilities for its use.
Regarding that, a possibility of cyber espionage escalation is expected on the international level. It can be thwarted but not predicted as the external factors play a significant role in its further development. In contrast, escalation of cyber spying is a temporal phenomenon because it will lose its strong impacts as soon as the geopolitical situation stabilizes globally. Cases of cyber espionage are a subject to federal and state laws only so that it is hard to regulate in terms of the international law since it is not tied to a particular country or area. That is why cyber spies have enough freedom to perform their activities.
A distinct strength of this finding is based on the fact that the study focuses on the identification of a specific problem. As a result, that helps to orient the future investigation towards a particular problem instead of attempting to address all of them in a complex. What is more, the paper has revealed external factors of the identified problem. The problem of cyber espionage is related to a physical world so that a solution has to be found in the same dimension. Namely, stabilization of geopolitical situation on the world arena can be possible based on diplomacy and negotiations. That will lead to decrease of cyber espionage efficiency, as it will be not needed any longer. In fact, it is the same situation as with cyberterrorism. Both phenomena will keep occurring without any respect to the success of governmental security organs in the field of anti-malware designs. Considering all these points, it should be admitted that these findings could be utilized for a more detailed research regarding cyber espionage as an escalating threat caused by the intensification of geopolitical and macroeconomic environments. However, it is worth saying that these findings are still limited to a certain extent.
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The outlined findings are capable of creating a major basis for the further research, but a wide range of questions has to be answered. The findings have revealed that the current state of the knowledge is extremely insufficient and imperfect as influence of external environment is not commonly considered in terms of similar researches. That is why the findings are limited to the contribution into the following investigations as long as this study cannot be regarded as fully complete and independent. It is appropriate to mention that the study has not considered external factors of the other types of cybercrimes so that they possibly might have some implications as well. There is little probability of such a scenario, but the study is particularly focused on the original cyber espionage so that it is reflected in the statement of the study’s hypothesis. Overall, the limitations of the study are the evidence of the findings’ relevance rather than a major drawback. Despite all limitations, the paper has managed to indicate the most threatening type of cyber spying so that it is necessary to draw related conclusions.
In conclusion, it is essential to make a general comment on the study that has focused on the identification of cyber espionage as a genuine and escalating threat to the global society. The paper has introduced the research problem and the hypothesis. The hypothesis is based on the assumption that cyber espionage as an escalating threat to the entire world society. The study has decided to utilize qualitative approach, which is why the independent variables is types of cyber espionage while the dependent ones is frequency and origins of cyber spying. Then, the research has conducted a literature review and identified the main types of cyber espionage. The paper has also given an account to the methodology and research strategy that are based on correlation of the independent and dependent variables. As a result, the study has presented and analyzed the findings of the research. The findings have proved the validity of the hypothesis and revealed certain implications regarding research problem. The original cyber espionage has been indicated as the most proactively developing form of cyber spying because a high frequency of such cases has been recently reported, and numerous external factors are definitely involved in the emerging of this problem. The study has been framed from the perspective of the international law so that every single type of cyber espionage has been referred to a certain law.
Still, the methodology of the paper has occurred to have certain limitations. On the one hand, it does not presuppose that the findings are able to address the entire context of cyber espionage worldwide. Moreover, the methodological framework on the basis on the international law simplified the limitations, as similar cases of cyber spying can become a subject to the same laws. On the other hand, the paper has left a wide variety of issues that are expected to be addressed in the future investigations. The study has proved the hypothesis, but has not issued fundamental knowledge about cyber espionage’s essence. It does not have to be considered as a drawback of the research as it has highlighted the importance of the external environment in regards to the origins of cyber espionage. Hence, it is quite reasonable to suggest the following direction for the further research. As long as the original cyber espionage has relatively vague sources, the future research has to clarify its origins and trace the relations between cyber spying and events in geopolitics, macroeconomics, show business, and so on.