Next IRN Presentation on April 4, 2018

The next meeting of the IRN will take place on Wednesday April 4 from 5:00-6:30pm in rm 302 at the Munk School (1 Devonshire Pl). Andrew Nevin, a PhD student in Sociology at the University of Toronto will be presenting his research.

Cyber-Psychopathy and Online Misconduct

Currently, there is a lack of research investigating how the unique structural conditions of cyberspace, such as anonymity, asynchronicity, and normlessness, may influence incidences of cyber-deviance. To fill this gap, I hypothesize a concept I call “cyber-psychopathy”, which is an expression of ‘dark’ e-personality that may serve as a potential mediator between such Internet characteristics and online misconduct behaviours. In this study, I quantitatively test the validity of cyber-psychopathy, namely the notion that psychopathic traits, on average, may be expressed at higher levels when in online environments. Analyses of data from 2015 have shown support for this idea–when controlling for social context, individuals report higher psychopathy scores online than offline, which is especially pronounced in male subsamples. Further multivariate models demonstrated the role of cyber-psychopathy in subsequently predicting both increased acceptability and greater tendencies toward behaviours such as cyber-stalking, trolling, flaming, and digital piracy. Implications from these findings suggest a need to foster empathy and close the psychological distance between netizens, as well as to understand the internet as a real social space facilitating interactions between real people. Overall, this research has served as a pilot study for my dissertation, which aims to replicate and extend these findings in a nationally representative sample of Canadian internet users.

Next IRN Presentation on March 21, 2018

The next meeting of the IRN will take place on Wednesday March 21st from 5:00-6:30pm in rm 302 at the Munk School (1 Devonshire Pl). Pascal Lupien, Adjunct Professor at the University of Guelph and Research Fellow at Balsillie School of International Affairs will be presenting his current work.

Indigenous Civil Society, Security and ICTs in Latin America: Challenges and Prospects

The wave of democratization that swept Latin America in the 1980s and 1990s provided new political opportunities and groups representing Indigenous communities have engaged in diverse forms of collective action with varying degrees of success. Yet surprisingly little attention has been paid to the impact of technology on the capacity of Indigenous civil society to advance collective goals and to how states are using ICTs to disrupt or control these efforts. Indigenous peoples are characterized by above average rates of poverty and geographical isolation, meaning that they often lack infrastructure, Internet access and IT-related skills. More so than any other group in their respective societies, Indigenous social movements have challenged key state interests with respect to extractive activities. This has caused conflict between Indigenous communities and states that rely heavily on natural resources for revenue. In response, state actors and extractive industries in Latin America have borrowed from the national security discourse of their counterparts in the Global North, often labelling these groups as security threats. They have utilized a complex and growing set of information control mechanisms to enforce their agenda.

This talk will present an analysis of the evolving cyberpolitics landscape in Latin American countries such as Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Chile, Venezuela and Mexico from the perspective of the region’s Indigenous civil society organizations. While lack of infrastructure, resources and IT skills pose significant challenges, information security issues also pose a threat to the ability of Indigenous organizations to pursue their interests. Weak and outdated surveillance legislation, combined with an increased government interest in intrusive technologies, create more barriers. Organizations representing marginalized communities are in a weak position to detect and combat surveillance and cyberattacks, and to demand enforcement of whatever privacy legislation does exist. Given Latin American states’ reliance on natural resources, lack of infrastructure and training in rural areas, and the current political climate that favours a security discourse in the face or real or imagined threats, it appears that ICTs are shifting the balance of power away from the Hemisphere’s most marginalized actors.

Next IRN Presentation on March 14th

The next meeting of the IRN will take place on Wednesday March 14th from 5:00-6:30pm (in rm 302 at the Munk School). Steven Loleski, PhD Candidate in Political Science, will present his current research on the evolution of the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations:

From Cold to Cyber Warriors: The Origins and Expansion of NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO)

The Snowden disclosures had wide ranging effects but arguably foremost among them was to publicize the dangers of mass surveillance in the Internet age. The initial Snowden revelations deliberately targeted NSA’s bulk telephony program and collection from various large U.S. Internet companies under the Prism program. The NSA’s response to the digital age, it seemed, was to collect it all. While certainly the digital age posed some unique challenges and opportunities on the NSA in terms of collection and processing, it overlooks the innovation of targeted, state-sponsored hacking. The fastest growing part of NSA following 9/11, according to then-acting Director Michael Hayden, was NSA’s Office of Tailored Access Operations (TAO). Instead of passively and indiscriminately intercepting data, TAO was designed to actively target networks. How did the practice of state-sponsored hacking emerge and develop? This paper discusses the origins and development of the practice of active SIGINT from the mid-1980s to the present. Importantly, active SIGINT as a practice emerged from its creative insights among some in the NSA workforce and not from an immediate failure to adapt to change.

SIGINT Workshop on March 7, 2018

Chris Parsons, research associate at Citizen Lab, will be holding a workshop on his research on SIGINT and surveillance. The workshop will take place on Wednesday March 7 at 10:00am in the Munk School Building (room 302N).

Chris will be speaking about, first, the areas of research in which he is involved and how technologies are evolving at a rate which exceeds the drafting and passage of legislation or establishment of government accountability regimes. After providing a broad overview of this area of work he will discuss, specifically, how the transition to digital technologies have led to a quantum leap in Canadian government agencies’ access to data and corresponding lawful authorities to access said data, but without corresponding accountability regimes. He will argue that such leaps risk separating the lawfulness of government activities from the legitimization of such activities, and outline potential challenges to democratic politics that raise as a result.

This will be a great opportunity to learn more about the regulatory challenges posed by technological development, and the ways law enforcement and intelligence agencies are exploiting loopholes this creates.