Cyberspace has changed many old concepts. In this globalised world everyone is neighbour of other. There is no established concept of boundaries.
The use of social media has become a ubiquitous component of the ever more interconnected world in which we now live.
The term “social media” refers to internet-based applications that enable people to communicate and share resources and information. Social media can be accessed by computer, smart and cellular phones, and mobile phone text messaging (SMS).
The use of social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn can provide organisations with new and innovative ways in which to engage with their staff.
However this highly dynamic and end-user focused environment also brings with it a number of security concerns. The data held within social media can provide an attacker with a wealth of information about the internal workings of an organisation, including detail on roles and responsibilities, projects, relationships and expose information about internal IT systems, including the ability to identify security vulnerabilities.
Social networking sites (or social media) and the challenges that it throws up in the space of cyber-warfare are indeed issues that have drawn the attention of security and law enforcement agencies in recent times.
The ability of individuals to share information with an audience of millions is at the heart of the particular challenge that social media presents. In addition to giving anyone the power to disseminate sensitive information, social media also gives the same power to spread false information, which can be just as damaging.
The rapid spread of false information through social media is among the emerging risks identified by the World Economic Forum in its Global Risks 2013 report.
The mass exodus of a number of northeast Indians from many parts of India in the aftermath of the ethnic strife in Assam, triggered by a cyber hate campaign in 2012 and recently in Bangalore and other cities are a case in point.
According to a survey analysis on social media usage in India, India’s web users have 153 million active social media accounts. Half of them are monthly active Facebook users. Twitter is also expanding its base amongst Indian citizens. It also reflects the changing patterns of communication among urban India.
Social media is used by terrorist organisations as a tool for ideological radicalization, recruitment, communication and training. In addition, terrorist groups take advantage of it to communicate with cybercrime organisations and to coordinate along with the fundraising activities (from illicit activities) carried out in part (drug smuggling, gun running) or completely (e.g. phishing 9) on the Internet.
Present scenario in India
For the government, the internet has always been a tool for better governance and its application has been technical, with issues of e-governance handled by technocrats. Not much thought has been given to the aspect of content and here lies its biggest shortcoming.
The NTRO (National Technical Research Organisation), the apex intelligence body under the National Security Advisor, still does not have an official mandate of a monitoring agency.
If one required authorities to engage and counter-propaganda, the most common refrain is the predicament of the fear of the Official Secrets Act that hovers above like the sword of Damocles.
The Supreme Court of India, on March 24, 2015, struck down Section 66 A of the Information and Technology Act, which allows police to arrest people for posting “offensive content” on the internet. The bench said the public’s right to know is directly affected by Section 66 A and the Section clearly affects the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression enshrined in the Constitution of India.
What can be done?
Social media analysis generated intelligence or SOCMINT is being developed as a successful model in many countries abroad to isolate hotspots or subjects that go viral and is used as a predictive tool.
India too is looking at these models but is still at the stage of experimentation, trial and error.
The Mumbai Police has launched a project called “Social Media Lab”, the first of its kind in the country. The lab would monitor relevant information from Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, as well as all other open sources in the public domain. About 20 specially-trained officers are supposed to work in shifts.