Will cyber sovereignty restrict freedom on the internet? – The Daily Star


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The advent of modern technology has essentially redefined the current era. However, with rising use of the internet comes the ever-growing threat of hackers and data breaches. It is estimated that cybercrime causes 6 trillion US$ worth of damage annually, and the number keeps rising every year. In order to combat this concern, international authorities have expressed the desire to enforce cyber sovereignty, leading to a recent conflict with freedom on the internet. 

"This exercise of control over a country's cyberspace will include political, economic, cultural and technological objectives, extending the concept of sovereignty to include all aspects of the internet", explained Alim Abdul, Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) and VP of Information Technology at OBHS (One Brooklyn Health System), NYC, USA.

In a panel titled 'The State Of Cyber Security - Governing Cyberspace: Cyber Sovereignty Vs Cyberspace Freedom', held in the third day of the World Congress on Information Technology 2021 (WCIT 2021), experts from around the world joined to discuss if government agencies and private organizations can ensure a balance between sovereignty and freedom in the cyberspace.

Tarique M. Barkatullah, Director of National Data Center, CA & Security of Bangladesh Computer Council, offered a contrasting statement, "Sovereignty issues depend on the preparedness of each country. For Bangladesh, I don't see much cyber awareness and literacy available at the moment, especially when compared to Europe and North America." According to him, due to a lack of cyber awareness, there needs to be moderation of cyberspace so harmful activities can be controlled.

Dr. Vilius Benetis, Director of NRD Cyber Security, emphasized the humane aspects of cyberspace. "We need to keep in mind that cyberspace is occupied by humans. Humans with our excellences and deficiencies, and willingness to execute power on others: these bring very interesting relations in cyberspace," he stated. In order for us to have freedom in cyberspace, he feels we need to educate ourselves, and grow into a particular level of understanding to properly exercise cyber sovereignty.

Eric Chuang, Managing Director at BDO USA, brought up how internet sovereignty in some countries can lead to difficulties in tracking cyber criminals. "Not every country has the same requirement for domain registration. This means there are IP addresses favored by hackers coming from countries with no collaboration between each other," said Eric Chuang.

He mentioned that sovereignty can make it easier for cyber criminals to continue illegal activities, because they know other countries cannot do anything to them due to the criminal justice process being executed differently across borders.

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