Given how deeply technology is embedding itself in our society, the technological cold war that has been going on for some time, and which looks set to worsen for the foreseeable future, poses a real risk of causing more damage than any physical war the world has experienced till date.
The usual suspects of the US, UK, China, North Korea and Russia currently take up the major roles in a war which is silently growing in both stature and threat but it is important to recognise that the fundamental principle of technology allows any nation or independent organisation the opportunity to make a significant impact.
In light of a recent event where the UK's National Health System was hacked into by cyber criminals, the theory that hackers will become an increasingly dangerous threat to our society continues to be validated. Though the hack was stopped whilst still in the early stages of causing frenzied panic and major delays, it only requires a small run of the imagination to think of what could have been. A cyber-attack on a nation’s infrastructure is not a completely new concept, however, as the events at New York's Bowman River Dam or the unprecedented hack of Ukraine's power grid can testify, which lead to the thought that these are simply an indication of things to come.
Crimes such as these, alongside the hackings of numerous global entities such as Google, Apple, Samsung etc. as well as those of a more sinister nature which take place on the infamous dark web are easily definable as illegal and immoral. There are never any concerns when labelling those culpable of the acts as criminals and persecution is almost always met with unanimous support.
Defining right or wrong however, becomes a lot more difficult when governments start accusing one another of cyber-crime. Accusations of trying to influence presidential elections, hacking into official government emails, spying on political parties, and even being behind some of the cyber-attacks which wreak havoc in a country's society have all been made amongst some of the most powerful countries in the world. Yet, it is very hard to know who is telling the truth as it is very rare that evidence is ever put forward for the public. The only proof that is made available, however, forces forward thinking people to raise worrying questions about the actions of those we entrust to be our leaders.
Individuals and groups of men alike have found themselves wanted by numerous governments for some of the most serious crimes in the cyber world. But it is these crimes which have allowed us to gain access to potentially society changing information. Their actions have provided the average person a crucial alternative to manipulative, biased and agenda driven news by presenting unfiltered, evidence based facts on the activities our governments have been secretly engaged in.
One of the most famous examples is Julian Assange and his team at WikiLeaks who have spent over a decade dedicating themselves to uncovering evidence of criminal activities within governments ranging from corruption to humanitarian atrocities committed during global conflicts.
They proved the value of their work and their importance to our society on a global scale prior to the 2016 presidential elections. With Hillary Clinton being the favourite to win the presidency against a candidate who not many people had initially given a chance to, WikiLeaks released over 3000 of her personal e-mails. The leaks proved to be of such significance that her popularity amongst the American public declined dramatically and she went on to eventually lose the elections because of it.
The e-mails brought to light the true motives behind a number of government actions and the depths of immorality they are willing to reach in order to maintain their status as the world’s most powerful country. The narrative on sale at the time of the Libyan ‘revolution’, for instance, was one of supporting the liberation of a suppressed society from an evil dictator. However gaining a larger share in Libyan oil production, aiding the increase of French influence in North Africa and most importantly stopping the implementation of Gaddafi’s proposed Gold Dinar currency turned out to be the real reasons behind a manufactured coup in which countless numbers of lives were lost and ruined and an entire region was destabilized.
Revelations of this nature possess evident power and influence however due to it being at a government level the majority of the population are not directly affected by it especially if, as in this case, you are not American. However, in WikiLeak’s most recent content release known as Vault 7, a huge spectrum of material was uncovered not only highlighting how vulnerable we are to technological developments but also how they can impact the masses in a very sinister and invasive manner.
Though it has become common knowledge that our laptops and smart phone devices are easily susceptible to having their locations, microphones and cameras switched on discreetly by government agencies, our acquiescence has led to a further escalation of everyday products being used against us to spy on the average person.
With television already proving itself to be one of the biggest modern day influences on a person's beliefs and perceptions, governments have managed to gain even more uses for the digital box from which they have spent decades releasing doctored facts and creative propaganda. With our reality taking a further step into George Orwell’s 1984 the latest technological advancements of which we are aware of, allows for the ever popular Samsung TV’s to actually act as microphones when the owner believes it to be switched off. Recording all conversation taking place and storing it on a CIA database.
The increasing levels of surveillance under the guise of the threat of terrorism should only go so far before we begin to accept the notion that maybe there is more to it than what we are told.
Knowing the truth about our society and the actions of those leading it is a right of more importance than how we obtain that information. With the law being a synthetic concept it is just as liable to being wrong as anything else man-made. Always changing and varying from country to country, morality is not always synonymous with legality and the case of Edward Snowden justifies that notion.
Considered a law abiding citizen during his eight year association with the American government, he was a part of the very organisations which violated both law and ethics to great degrees in equal measure. And yet his reputation was that of a role model who served and protected his country. Having decided to come forward, speak the truth and reveal the wrongs done by those in authoritative positions he now finds himself a wanted man who will spend the foreseeable future in hiding and in fear for his life.
It all leads us to the question of what should be the first basis when making judgment on an action. The action in itself, or the status of the person responsible. We are raised to always side with right over wrong unequivocally, yet the seldom few who learn the truths beyond the smokescreens are persecuted as criminals as opposed to celebrated as heroes.