Should Government Monitor Network Usage to Support National Defense?
Advancing technology has posed great difficulties in assessing threats to national security. The most serious acts of violence via the internet are cyber-war and cyber-terrorism, which have raised concern with security agencies in the governments of most countries. This essay will focus on the essence of the governments to monitor network usage in order to reduce civil crime and acts of terrorism via the internet in support of national defense. In addition, the essay will discuss the actions that national security agencies have taken in their efforts to curb the threats, as well as which specific networks they monitor.
In today’s modern society, internet networks are becoming an important way for both individuals and businesses to enhance communication. The productivity and social interaction of our society depend a great deal on this tool to foster relations and national development. However, as internet usage is rapidly growing, it is becoming more and more difficult to evaluate its effects. This poses a danger to both individual privacy and to national security.
Surveillance programs such as the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) have become important strategies to combat and prevent criminal activity through computer-based networks. With the rapid change and revolutions of technology, governments are finding it very easy to put any personal information of the public under close watch with programs such as CBS (computers and biometric software) and Total Information Awareness Programs (TIAP). Even as the government is struggling to put safeguards in place, the American and most other world governments are still at risk from possible threats imposed by computer networks, and most Americans are losing their privacy due to the government’s efforts to minimize these threats (Stanley and Steinhardt, 2003).
The efforts of the government to control threats to national security through the use of surveillance still receive much criticism from individual citizens. Individuals see these efforts as an invasion of their privacy and into the privacy of companies. Although the government has the ability to monitor the usage of networks in an attempt to reduce risks before a security breach occurs, efforts to achieve this goal may still be fruitless (Whitehead, 2009). Nevertheless, major steps are being taken by the government’s intelligence agency to monitor networks in the interest of the public. These efforts are intended to prevent hacking and subsequent leaks of sensitive data in order to protect the privacy of individuals. This effort to increase safety and at the same time protect individual privacy is a necessary step towards achieving the government’s goal to support national defense.
Vulnerability to threats such as cyber-terrorism and cyber war pose a great danger to national security
While such cyber attacks are increasing, the government is making many efforts to monitor systems in the interest of national defense. Statistics reveal that by March 2013 over 38.8% of the world’s population will access the internet with over 65% online in developed countries (IWS, 2013). This diversity of networks has posed many problems that are made worse by weak government policies. Because of this, there is a need for the government to come up with strong policies to aid in keeping national defense intact.
One form of cyber attacks that has threatened American society and its companies is cyber-terrorism. Cyber-terrorism has multiple definitions. The most narrow definitions describes it as the intentional use of computers and computer networks that causes damage to people, information, property, or even an intimidation by another government with an attempt to cause destruction or economic loss (Matusitz,2005). Cyber-terrorism has the potential to damage industrial leaders who wish to protect their products. This is why most government and security agencies are motivated to combat the problems through the monitoring of all public networks.
As opposed to cyber-terrorism, cyber-warfare is more political in nature and involves a specific threat aimed at attacking a financial institution or company, leading to financial loss. Some of the latest reported victims of this type of cyber-attack were The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, and these types of threats are extending into the roots of the U.S. government. These two prominent U.S publications received a major loss due to a compromise by a Chinese news syndicate hacking their operations (Szakmary, 2013). The kind of systems that control computer networks is becoming a major platform for cyber-terrorism, and indeed pose a threat to national security. Consequently, the threat is increasing and leading to political instability, economic loss and even loss of life. Because of this, the government has put policies in place in an that allow it to monitor public networks in order to reveal the nature and source of similar attacks in support of national defense.
The stuxnet worm is an example of cyber-terrorism on computer systems and the networking on which many organizations rely. This is a major culprit in Estonia and in Saudi Arabia affecting the infrastructure of the oil industry and was created by the U.S and Israel governments with the aim of applying it in uranium enrichment facilities. This is one of the dangerous malware created by the U.S government, and there are speculations that the government was targeting the power structure of Iran.
This worm attacked the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems that control industrial communications, including power plants and gas pipelines (Zetter, 2011). This planned attack caused 100,000 computers to be attacked by malware, posing dangers to the industrial infrastructure of Iran. Many believe that it was the intention of the U.S government to destroy the industrial control systems of Iran. If the right monitoring techniques had been employed, such a spread of malware could have detected at early stage and controlled. This shows how the monitoring of networks is essential to detect the source of such threats and to avoid similar attacks in order to protect the interests of the nation.
Another possible threat to the government is the high degree of dependence on social networks. This includes Facebook, twitter, and blackberry. Social networks have been blamed for major riots that have occurred in major cities in the U.K. and have been particularly widespread in London (Potgieter, 2011). Freedom of expression and the rights of the media contribute to the increase in these threats. The efforts of the authorities to monitor the networks could reduce the violence and threats posed by social networking services.
Tracing crimes via the social networking media is also another challenge in implementing effective monitoring systems to prevent possible threats. If the government were to put monitoring systems in place, this would help detect criminal activity and reveal the location of planned attacks as well as assisting with the prosecution of the criminals in the judicial systems. This would help to reduce both cyber-terrorism and cyber-war. This demonstrates how the government’s role in monitoring computer networks would be effective in supporting national defense and the public interest of a nation.
Government authorities have put several security agencies in charge of monitoring networks to reduce possible threats. In order to prevent the use of captured data for unintended purpose, harsh regulations and laws publicized by these security agencies would restrict personal use of such information by employees and journalists. This demonstrates that governments understand how important it is to put such policies in place in order to monitor networks and support national defense.
In the United States, the National Security Agency (NSA) is the largest security agency that does mass surveillance. Current sources reveal that NSA secret programs survey millions of data from American’s and foreign national’s phone calls and internet communications (Greenwald, 2013). After 9/11, The Patriot Act was implemented, which mandated the NSA to spy on individuals without first obtaining a search warrant from the court. Although they are intruding in the private life of individuals, safety is paramount in the interest of the nation as a whole.
Another security agency that involves partnership between different states is UKUSA. Member states involved are the U.S, New Zealand, Canada and Australia (Schimid, 2001). ECHELON is a security intelligence collection and analysis network that UKUSA member states partner with in their operations. The system is able to identify communications between criminals and terrorists.
The security agency in charge of monitoring computer networks in the U.K is the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). The operations of this agency are not limited to snooping of data (Leppard, 2008). GCHQ is the first line defense in the national security of Britain, as well as the top-most eavesdropping agency that monitors private communications through direct taps into fiber optic cables. Current developments show how the NSA and GCHQ are working together to perform mass surveillance. The case of Edward Snowden, a former U.S. security intelligence contractor, revealed that there is possibility of the government interfering with people’s private lives.
U.K. programs that were recently mandated allowing security authorities to track emails and website visits and to record communications in order to combat terrorism have remained a question of debate. Such plans are underway, although people still argue about how invasive it is to people’s privacy. The government has since put in place measures necessary to protect the public. Those who log visit certain web pages have to do so with an internet protocol (IP) addressees so that the government only records the activity on suspected pages.
Even though the debates about personal privacy are becoming intense, the agencies mentioned have seen the need to monitor various broad computer-based networks to counter terrorism in support of national defense.
The common and largest networks under surveillance by security agencies are Local Area Networks (LAN) and Wide Area Networks (WAN). These are large collections of internet networks, which have different purposes depending on the topology and user needs. The usage of the internet is high, and broad in terms of information which is why the government concentrates so much on monitoring the internet in order to support national defense.
Other areas of internet networks to which the government is extending its monitoring programs are electronic mail, the World Wide Web (WWW) and social networks. Social networks such as twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook are linked with increasing crimes in both the U.K. and the U.S. It is very difficult for users of such networks to detect possible threats. Thus, the government sees it as necessary to monitor communications data with the fast- changing technology. According to Booth (April, 2012), 95% of serious organized crimes are detected by government counter-terrorism programs with the contribution of communication data.
This demonstrates how monitoring communication data, which includes the numbers dialed for a phone call, time, and email addresses, is compatible with the government’s goal of storing civil information and restricting the liberties of individuals in the interest of national defense.
Governments are also putting more effort into monitoring telecommunication networks, which involves mobile and landline phones. According to the Guardian newspaper, the government of the U.K. introduced a new law in 2012 mandating security services and allowing the police to put telecommunication networks under surveillance (Booth, 1 April 2012). The Strategic Defense and Security review of 2010 supported this law through the government’s program to allow security intelligence and law enforcement agencies to obtain communication data from phones and to terminate suspicious communications. This is an indication of the government’s commitment to counter-terrorism through monitoring all forms of communications media in order to support national defense.
Various technologies are used to monitor networks depending on the type of communications done
The government monitors network usage is by asking the communication providers for usage information. Since internet networks have a client-server model, the servers of Internet Service Providers process all requests from its multiple clients. Nevertheless, sometimes ISPs are reluctant to reveal such information, as they believe it is not their job to regulate the internet (Clayton, 2005). The best example of this is the technology used by Chinese Golden Shield, known as the Chinese Shield Firewall. The government designed it to hide information aimed at destroying the Chinese government from the Chinese public. The system only allows traffic to pass through several routers at the ISP level before being blocked. At present, Skype conversations provide evidence in support of this organization.
Individual companies also assist in the monitoring of employees and pass any suspicious information to the government. This is helpful in supporting national defense in the event that employees are planning any malicious or terrorist acts. Technical staff can also assist in viewing employees’ laptops and in case of any suspicious information they can pass it on to the management and thereafter to the police, who will pass it to the relevant national defense agencies.
In reported news in Toronto, seventeen people suspected of acts of terrorism were arrested following these kinds of monitoring exercises (Geist, 2006). The number of people under surveillance has increased, indicating that the systems governments use to monitor networks and support the government in national defense are productive.
It is better for government monitoring networks to be well informed by joint intelligence committees from U.K. and in the U.S. the senate select committee. They should be responsible for ensuring that the monitored information is handled correctly and securely, and the handling of such information procured from relevant bodies.
In conclusion, cyber-warfare and cyber-terrorism are becoming a major threat to national security. This is due to the increasing usage of the internet, therefore creating a stage for such acts executed as threats to state-run security. Cyber-based threats require no weapons, personnel or any form of explosives, but rather consist of unauthorized intrusion and an overload of worms and viruses to computer based networks systems through methods too difficult for governments and individual state members to comprehend today (Gable, 43).
The structural challenge for many governments is to come up with systems of security that fit the fast growing technology of the 21st century. Efforts to institute proper educative cyber norms and produce specialized managers have lagged behind due to improper planning and allocation of resources. In addition, with the fast technological developments, governments end up lagging behind the rapid changes in technology. As this trend continues, governments on the other side are increasing their efforts to combat the problem in support of national defense.
If terrorists are using the internet for their acts of violence and posing dangers to a nation, the government should invest more resources and invest in security technology systems for curbing terrorism. To achieve this, they will need sound educational institutions to produce specialized and skilled managers to counteract the acts of cyber attacks among the public. This will mean mobilizing IT expertise in the country and training them on how to prepare for the possibility of cyber attacks in the interest of national defense.
It should also be the responsibility of the law-abiding citizen to ensure that any information seen on the internet that is suspected to be related to a terror campaign attack be reported to the relevant authorities. This will ensure that the government gets enough information to fully combat the situation. It is a good idea for citizens to be comfortable enough for the government’s effort to protect the nation than to worry so much about his/her personal privacy. Attempts by the government to monitor networks and support national defense will only be fruitful if individuals of the state abide by and cooperate with the government’s policies.
In summary, for the public to agree that the government should monitor networks in the support of national defense is of prime importance. Knowing about and detecting threats from the internet is difficult, And it is only through the investment of vast technology relevant to the situation that we can foster the development communication that will help to curb threats to national security. Thus, irrespective of any concerns about the invasion of privacy, government monitoring of networks in the support of national defense should not be postponed.
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