A huge current topic is the alleged Russian involvement in the 2016 US Presidential Election. The Russians are accused of not only hacking the emails of the National Democratic Party, but also spreading faked news to get Donald Trump elected. In the recent Middle East crisis, Qatar claimed that some comments by the Emir posted on Twitter and its official website are faked. The comments directly led to the breakup of diplomatic relationship between Qatar and its Middle East neighbors. The separation between the physical world and the digital world has been very thin. This is indeed the conclusion by Mr. Morgan Marquis-Boire in Emtech Hong Kong 2017. The title of his talk is “Privacy and Cybersecurity in the Digital Age”. Mr. Marquis-Boire is the Senior Researcher and Technical Advisor of Citizen Lab, which is an interdisciplinary laboratory based at the University of Toronto, Canada. The Citizen Lab studies information controls—such as network surveillance and content filtering—that impact the openness and security of the Internet and that pose threats to human rights.
In his talk, Morgan reminds us how vulnerable we are in losing our privacy. While we consider our home to be our sanctuary, the fact is that with all the devices in our home: mobile phones, tablets and computers, our privacy can easily be compromised by hackers. Not only that, hackers are growing in sophistication. Nowadays hackers are no longer lone wolves. They are likely to be a team, working in a major organization. They may even by funded by the governments. Google estimated that 80% of the news organization is targeted by state hackers. In fact, Morgan listed out 20 countries that are involved in cyber-surveillance campaigns, including China, US and UK.
Morgan is concerned that things will get worse as more and more devices are connected. Think about the autonomous cars. If an autonomous car is hacked, the result can be very life threatening. Also think of medical device like a pacemaker. As the Internet of Things pick up steam, cyber-security is a major concern.
In my private interview with Morgan, I asked Morgan about the potential use of Artificial Intelligence in cyber-security. Morgan replied while AI can become a valuable tool in fighting hacking and cyber-espionage, AI itself can also be a tool in hacking and other cyber-crimes. So it is really a double-edge swords. In fact AI itself may be hacked and compromised. It is indeed a scary thought.