The link between cybersecurity, the extremist threat and online disinformation in Aotearoa

Cyber ​​threats come in many different forms. While things like malware, bugs, and phishing attacks can cause serious damage on their own, when combined with threats and misinformation, they can often have devastating effects.

These types of threats form in a variety of ways and easily evade cybersecurity and personal cybersecurity measures. Long story short, misinformation, threat, and extremism are often intertwined with cybersecurity issues and cyber damage.

Hate speech, threat and extremism are issues that have caused significant problems in Aotearoa, and the root of much of them is unfortunately active in an online environment. Threat actors with sinister agendas are covertly breaking down cybersecurity and threat prevention barriers to promote their own unique brand of hate and extremism, using a variety of tools and systems to cause widespread harm.

It often happens that much of the evil is initiated in the dark corners of the Internet, blocked by complex coding and security technology. It can also be initiated on social media, with large corporations struggling to control and monitor with effective legal security measures. Threat actors hide behind fake profiles, and even with the strictest cybersecurity and security regulations and measures, misinformation can break down those walls in an instant.

Threat and disinformation come in many forms. Regarding InternetNZ statistics show that 58% of New Zealanders – up from 42% last year – are either “extremely concerned” or “very concerned” about conspiracy theories online. Kiwi’s overall level of concern about misinformation has also increased significantly this year, with 66% of New Zealanders being extremely or very concerned that information is misleading or wrong. The number of people who said they were extremely or very concerned about hate speech online also rose from 58% to 65%.

Research like this underscores that we need strong cybersecurity and security measures in place to prevent lasting harm.

“InternetNZ wants to see an internet where everyone in Aotearoa can fully participate online. Scams, cybersecurity risks and abusive online behavior are all linked in that they make it harder for our community members to stay safe. “said James, Senior Policy Advisor at InternetNZ. Ting Edwards.

“It’s critical that work to address these issues begins by listening to those most affected by abusive behavior online, whether it’s threats to the security of people’s computers and bank accounts, or threats to their personal safety and their ability to connect without facing harassment.”

He says there needs to be a broad community effort to prevent threatening behavior, and that laws and technology can’t do much.

“Governments and online services are well aware of these issues, but the gap we see is a need for further work to include community voices in crafting solutions,” he says.

“It’s not just about laws and technology, it’s about how Aotearoa communities get a voice in the online environments we participate in.”

Dr Ethan R. Plaut from the University of Auckland stressed that hate speech and threat must be seen as a matter of national security, and it is a growing problem around the world.

“Hate speech online is a national security issue in many different ways,” he says.

“This is clearly true in the sense that foreign actors may be involved in the creation and dissemination of hateful misinformation, and in the sense that domestic extremism online has been implicated in the radicalization of people involved in attacks. violent, including here in Aotearoa New Zealand.

“These issues also intersect in online attacks against people who advocate for Maori, women, racial minorities, LGBTQ and other vulnerable communities, who are vulnerable to doxxing, threats and other forms of abuse. online attacks.

A stark example of these types of threats in action can be seen before and after the devastating Christchurch terrorist attacks of 2019.

The attacker was very active in a secret online environment, operating to promote hate and infiltrating various social media platforms to spread it. The terrorist also released a manifesto and live-streamed his actions, causing significant and widespread damage. CERT NZ reported various issues in the wake of the tragedy, saying scammers and attackers were using the tragic event as an opportunity to carry out targeted online cyberattacks against New Zealanders. Some of them included:

  • Phishing emails containing links to fake online banking logins. These emails also contained fraudulent bank accounts to which victims could make donations for the Christchurch tragedy.
  • Sharing malicious video files on compromised websites or social media.
  • A video file containing images related to the attack contained malware, and this malicious file is being shared online. (This could promote more hate and threat)
  • Attackers modify New Zealand websites to spread political messages about the Christchurch tragedy. (This was also prevalent on social media)
  • New Zealand websites receiving threats of denial of service attacks which would take them offline.

So clearly cybersecurity and safety intersect with hate speech and threats, so what can be done to help prevent serious problems in the future?

While Netsafe, CERT NZ and other organizations play a key advisory role in helping to inform the public of threats and stop the spread of misinformation here in Aotearoa, there is also a collective bargaining agreement in place which aims to tackle to these problems at the source. The Christchurch Call was formed in Paris on May 15, 2019 and acted as a collective agreement of countries around the world to create a safer online environment that stops hate, threat and misinformation in its tracks.

Made up of more than 50 countries and delegations around the world, the agreement initiated by Paris and New Zealand concluded that collective and voluntary commitments by governments and online service providers aim to solve the problem of terrorist and extremist content. violence online and to prevent Internet abuse. as happened during and after the Christchurch attacks.

The agreement highlights five key points that governments should collectively aim to achieve, with topics ranging from the use of law and regulation to support frameworks for businesses to combat hate and abuse in line.

While some points apply directly to broadcast media, when considering those related to cybersecurity, the framework advises:

  • Outreach and capacity building activities aimed at small online service providers.
  • Development of industry standards or voluntary frameworks.
  • Regulatory or policy measures consistent with a free, open and secure Internet and international human rights law.

Social media giants such as Meta, Twitter, Google and YouTube are among the many organizations that have pledged to support the deal; however, it may take them years to fully implement secure systems and technologies around the world.

As with many things online, cybersecurity and safety remain clearly human issues and often can only be adequately addressed through widespread community effort.

As governments around the world battle the growing threat, misinformation and extremism, there is hope that the leadership shown through agreements like the Christchurch Call can promote safer online communities for all. .

Harry D. Gonzalez