Consequences of Diminishing Trust in Cyberspace

Consequences of Diminishing Trust in Cyberspace

Dipankar Dasgupta (Center for Information Assurance (CAE-R), Department of Computer Science, University of Memphis, Memphis, TN, USA) and Denise M. Ferebee (Center for Information Assurance (CAE-R), Department of Computer Science, University of Memphis, Memphis, TN, USA)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/ijcwt.2013070102
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Abstract

The cyberspace has become an integral part of modern day life—social, economic, political, religious, medical and other aspects. Without the availability of the Internet, many businesses, governments and society would not function properly. Presently, the Internet brings people together to share their ideas, and allow their voices to be heard. In its inception and ideally, cyberspace has no political, geographical or social boundaries; as a result it facilitates in globalization and the uniting of people all over the world by providing a means for communication. While the potential benefits of this interconnectivity are unlimited, this virtual world is also becoming hackers' playground, nation-states' battle ground, and a vehicle for propaganda and misinformation. In this article, the authors argue that with the growing threat of coordinated attacks, creation of complex malware and gradually diminished trust in freely-available information, the openness of the web and the global connectivity will no longer exist. If this trend continues, the Internet will be partitioned, users will rely on information and news through membership-based services, the information flow will be highly regulated by governments, online businesses and critical knowledge will only be shared among alliance of friendly nations.
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1. Cyberspace: Security, Privacy And Trust Issues

The cyberspace is increasing providing unimaginable benefit to the humanity, this paper, however, focuses only on the consequences of misuse/abuse of openness of the this space. Figure 1 shows how different cyber entities continuously trying to damage, diminish, misguide, misuse, and abuse various components and subcomponents (both software and hardware) of cyber systems resulting in growing mistrust in different segments of the Internet users (Schneider, 1999).

Figure 1.

An illustration of how the cyberspace is under continuous assault from various entities

Online social networks (OSNs) have become part of our daily life; almost everybody has a social presence in blogosphere. Different blog sites attract different people for participating in discussions, share information and forming groups and online community. While blogging, tweeting and other social and business networking usage growing, studies show that most OSN users are vulnerable to identity theft, target of third-party information tracking (via cookies used by data aggregators). This allows the aggregator to track the user’s movements across multiple websites, their navigation pattern and frequently visited sites. For example, Twitter has archived every tweet (250 million a day) and has agreed a deal allowing the UK-based company ‘Datasift’ to mine through data posted since January 2010. The company will use the information (users’ history, GPS information) to help firms with marketing campaigns and target influential users (Gladdis, 2012). Also OSNs are being used to spread rumors, misinformation and hatred with various intents.

Advertisers use different forms of spam for marketing such as in emails, blogs to promote products or services. It is also used to entice users familiar with the service to exploit search-engine reputation of the hosted service; to attract traffic from “neighboring” blogs, etc. Some companies are using third-parties for mining usage/access data of employees and customers to know their online behavior and loyalties. For furthering their businesses, some companies are not only seeking market data analysis of their own products and services but also of their competitors’ to have the commutative edge, however, such a broad data digging venture may cross the legal and ethical trade boundaries, resulting in industrial espionage.

Cyber criminals now can easily engage in identity theft as there are many web businesses providing personal information that have been cross referenced with publicly available information. These businesses are known as “people search engines”.

One such search engine, peoplefinders, sells personal data profiles that include: names, addresses, date of birth, family member names, marriage records, bankruptcies and liens, etc. (PeopleFinders, 2013). Other web services like, Spokeo, even merge relationships from social network sites with personal data (i.e. email address, marital status, etc.) (Spokeo, 2013). While these are valid businesses and useful resources for verifying someone’s background, possibilities exist for misuse or exploit (Jones, 2012). Cyber criminals are also taking advantage of the trust relationship formed among online social network users to steal personnel data (Sherry & Kellermann, 2013).

Hacktivist, a group of loosely-connected hackers such as Anonymous, while opposing to censorship of the Internet, are continuously challenging the big and small businesses, causing disruption in their operation. Web sites like Wikileak (Vijayan, 2010b) try to publish sensitive information to expose behind the scene deals to the public. While such whistle-blowing may try to expose corruptions, injustice, etc.; such leakages in cyberspace appear to have far reaching consequences (Hayden, 2013).

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