My Computer – My Stronghold

Tron Shell

A government has the duty to protect its citizens. If a government cannot protect its citizens anymore – or does not want to do it – it becomes illegitimate. In a democracy, power is passed from the people – via elections – to those people who represent the citizens in the legislative and executive branches. This power-transfer is not one way. It is temporary and can be withdrawn in the case of grave misconduct by those who shall govern. We derive the ability to protect the country’s borders from any hostile being from the right of the citizens to be protected by the state. What about our digital borders?

Well, I do not want to start a lengthy discussion about the definition of ‘digital borders’ here. Logic dictates: there are no digital borders. We could have a look at the national information infrastructure and say that this router or that backbone from ‘kind of digital borders’. That would be like saying this street forms the border of a country. Does not really work. The best example we can give – as of now – is the Golden Shield project or: the Great Firewall of China. Due to its setup, it can be regarded as digital border. The metaphor might not work entirely but to a certain degree it is right. There are three or five gates which connect the Chinese cyberspace to the international cyberspace. There are also a lot of holes dug through the wall. In general, however, it is safe to say that ‘digital’ borders are much more of a blurred concept than a true definition. If a hacker, traced back to a foreign country, probes the server of a national agency, it might be argued that this is violation of $state sovereign ‘soil’. If same hacker targets a private computer in $country it will be regarded as criminal offense. In that case no one would talk about having more secure digital borders, would we?

Let today be the day of abusing metaphors. The government can make the researchers and manufacturers obey to certain rules (policies through laws) which make front doors more secure. Keys are only allowed to be replicated if you can proof that it is for your door and so on. However, if you let your key in the front door or ‘hide’ it under the plant next to your door, no government legislation will help you. It is very similar with hacking attacks.

It is reasonable to ask the schools to include IT courses in the curriculum. It is valid to pressure the government to punish cyber crimes. It is totally understandable to urge policy-makers to come up with coherent laws regulating what is and what is not allowed to do with information- and communication technologies. If you leave your Wifi unprotected, nothing of this will help you. The point here is that ICTs are much more complex than a front door. Therefore, it will take time and research for our dear governments to come up with coherent regulations. Even then, they might miss out on somethings, do not take into account the latest developments or simply are not able to find the right way between ‘securing’ cyberspace and ‘spying on its citizens in cyberspace’. Therefore, we should not ask, neither rely on our governments to secure our computers or our networks. The only one who can really do that is us. We have to take over responsibility for our own IT as well as for the IT of our friends and those who are less tech-savvy. Organizations such as the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) and the CCC (Chaos Computer club) do much more in order to secure our ‘digital borders’ than most governments do. Therefore, it is necessary to support them and frequent their websites. We cannot rely on neither should ask our government to do it. Our ICT is our private stronghold and it is up to us to treat it like that.

Mantra: Awareness, Ownership, Knowledge,Participation

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