Cybersecurity is becoming an increasingly hot potato on the political scene. Ever since the US elections were supposedly hacked, many government offices went on high alert to conceal valuable assets - like their easy to guess passwords, along with spending habits (hat tipping and alarm bells are at this point all swerving in the direction of the current Tom Price step-down).
As a side thought, it's almost comical how Presidents Trumps' 'swamp draining' could collaborate with all kinds of nefarious cyber criminals, both parties wanting to get a look into the everyday appropriation of public money that is arguably happening in Washington.
One country, stoic until the end on cybersecurity is the communist republic of China. It is the only country that has not one but two Great Walls - China’s Great Wall (you know, the one you can see from outer space) and the Great Firewall.
China’s Great Firewall is the unprecedented policy of blocking some of the world’s major websites and mobile applications. Chinese citizens are not allowed to use Wikipedia, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and many Google services.
No twitter? That's right President Trump, no Twitter at all.
Whatsapp has been recently banned by China completely, messages, video, and images. Facebook, the parent company, has been banned in China since 2009. Whatsapp users were still able to send text message until a few days ago.
The reason for this drastic action is that the Communist leaders in China are scheduled to meet in a few weeks. It’s a meeting that takes place every 5 years in which new leaders are chosen and are able to vote on statewide policy.
Some speculate that the Chinese government wants everyone to switch to WeChat, which offers the government complete control over all of the users’ personal data. This obviously makes the country more secure, some say, and will help the government decrease any kind of unrest or cyber hacking during this sensitive time.
If you are living in China, smart and thinking of setting up your own VPN (virtual private network) China is cracking down on those too.
Facebook actually found a way around this by quietly launching a photo-sharing app called Colorful Balloons last month. The app has no public affiliation to Facebook, no branding of any kinds, and was launched through the Chinese company Youge Internet Technology.
The app itself, connects to WeChat and allows users to automatically upload all of their photos and share them with their friends. The interface looks almost identical to Facebook moments, creepy… we aren't sure if China noticed the app yet.
Meanwhile, flying back to our side of the planet, while China’s Great Firewall is getting stricter, the liberal City of San Francisco is using more and more open source software for systems and databases.
For the upcoming elections, in particular, San Francisco hired a firm to research the advantage of using open source software to collect votes as so far, it hasn’t actually been proven that open source software is more vulnerable to cyber-attacks. What open source means is that the software is more easily monitored and because it’s readily available to the public more people have tested it out and its less 'buggy'.
If any vulnerabilities are discovered they are immediately worked out, for the benefit of the whole open source community. Experts are claiming that if the city uses open source software for the elections then in the case of some fishy Russian meddling they will be able to quickly stop the attack.
In any case, open source software would allow San Francisco and other localities to respond to threats and have more control over the election process.
From the tightest regulations to the most lenient, the jury are still out on the most effective security response to digital data. What is for sure is that everyone is starting to watch intently to see the political, social and economic outcomes.