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Pandemic of Surveillance and Cyber Threats

October 31, 2022 by BSC

The internet’s democratic potential has been immensely challenged recently. Panel moderator Maja Bjelos, Senior Researcher at the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, questioned whether a human-centric approach to cybersecurity could strengthen democracy. Cybersecurity has become particularly important, especially with the greater potential for government misuse of technology, which was a point of agreement among all the panelists. 

Valentin Weber, Research Fellow in the German Council on Foreign Relations focused, on key cyber threats from a global perspective. He contended that the world is facing both a health and surveillance pandemic, emphasizing that “surveillance comes not only at the expense of human rights, but also at the expense of cybersecurity.” The only barrier to technology becoming unethical is an increase in regulation and transparency, he concluded. 

Megi Reci, Researcher at the Institute for Democracy and Mediation, observed that in the Western Balkans, vulnerable social groups and human rights defenders were the most frequent subjects of online violence. She explained the lack of judicially processed online violence cases, noting that “relevant bodies often lack technical capacities to protect them. “Her key recommendations for overcoming this problem are updating legal frameworks and enhancing parliament oversight. 

“Attack on critical infrastructure is usually an attack on human rights,” Alp Toker, Founder and Director of Netblocks, stressed. He classified government-ordered internet shutdowns as a form of repression which deprives whole communities of their fundamental rights. Noting that in the first six months of the year we faced 72 government-ordered internet shutdowns; he sees the private sector as a critical component in keeping communities connected. 

This panel was dedicated to the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy Researcher Marija Pavlović, who passed away in September, and who worked on cybersecurity issues at BCSP.