Prevention is better than cure: More vigilance and better defences can make cyberspace a lot safer

Cyberspace will never be completely secure. The threats posed by what Sir David Omand, an academic and former head of Britain’s GCHQ intelligence agency, calls “the cesspit of modernity” — online crime, espionage, sabotage and subversion — are not going to disappear. Nor is the temptation for governments to treat the internet as a new combat zone, alongside land, sea, air and space.In 1996 John Perry Barlow, a cyber-libertarian, issued a “Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” addressed to governments, insisting: “You have no moral right to rule us, nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear.” He turned out to be wrong. Governments have shown in a variety of ways — from the theft of industrial secrets by Chinese spies to the mass surveillance conducted by Western ones — that they are determined to make cyberspace their own.

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