Does Cyber Surveillance Bolster or Hinder Security?

One popular question in the world of digital security is whether we can anticipate and prevent a cybercrime before it can damage a device or network. A similar idea is represented in the 2002 science fiction thriller Minority Report. In the movie, a trio of psychics or \pre-cogs\" are able to predict violent crimes before they happen, which then alerts police of the impending atrocity. In way, the film explores the idea of mass surveillance albeit with a fantastical twist.

Believe it or not, the same idea has cropped up in the discussion of cybersecurity. Can surveillance be used to bolster security, or, will it inevitably lead to bigger problems? Below we will look at the issues surround cyber surveillance.

However, if you are not a pre-cog or a psychic, you probably won't be able to see a cyberattack coming; in which case, you should invest in cyber liability insurance from CyberPolicy. We can help protect your business against financial, legal and reputation damages caused by data breach.

Who's Watching You?

The dangers and efficacy of cyber surveillance really depend on who is watch who. For the sake of argument this can be divided into four categories:

  • Big Brother: Authorities watching citizens.
  • The Eavesdropping Advertiser: Advertisers watching users.
  • The Prying Eye: Cybercriminals watching users.
  • Helicopter Manager: Organizations watching workers.

The first category is probably the most well-known, due to books like 1984. What was once a paranoid fantasy about the ever-present, ever-watchful government turned out to be a reality when in 2013 the controversial leaker Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) was mass monitoring Americans' online habits and communications without a warrant.

Proponents argued that the program was essential to keeping U.S. citizens safe from terrorist attacks. Critics, on the other hand, say that the NSA's programs violate the rule of law and has \"no discernable impact\" on preventing terrorist attacks.

While government surveillance programs are still controversial, they would be nearly impossible without the aid of private companies. Not to mention that private businesses and advertisers have tracked online users for years now - and sometimes in really creepy ways.

Smart TVs listening to conversations in your home. Children's dolls recording dialogue to a remote data base. Social media sites analyzing your daily habits and selling the findings to advertisers. This isn't likely to stop any time soon, especially as we are at the crest of the Internet of Things.

Even if you trust this information will only be used for good (or at least, not for evil), the personal information gathered from you or your business can often be stolen by cybercriminals.

Hackers are the third category of cyber spies and obviously the most dangerous. They breach data, track keystrokes, watch us through compromised webcams, leverage public information to fool us... there is truly no end to a cyber crook's tricks. Which is why it is absolutely vital that businesses train their staff to look out for suspicious activity and report anything unusual.

Which leads us to the final category - the helicopter manager. This is a form of internal cyber surveillance that monitors employees (either through AI or human IT teams) to decrease the risk of hacking and digital exposure.

As you can imagine, this is somewhat contentious. How do employees know you are tracking their online movements for security purposes and not just to get them into trouble?

Try hosting a training session to discuss the cyber surveillance with your teams. Explain that you won't fire people for visiting Facebook over lunch or checking the news during a slow afternoon. But rather that you are trying to protect the welfare of your company and the privacy of their personal data as much as your own.

In the end, there is no fool proof solution to blocking cybercrime, nor is there a clear-cut answer on the proper boundaries for cyber surveillance. So what ever your company decides to do, be sure to explain the process and goals to your employees.

And don't forget to invest in cyber liability insurance from CyberPolicy. You'll be glad you did.

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