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The True Meaning of Cybersecurity

As more activities move online, our understanding of cybersecurity must evolve to stay ahead of emerging threats to public health and security. The digital market for illegal recreational substances shows why longstanding law-enforcement strategies will need to be reconsidered.

BERLIN – When we talk about cybersecurity, we usually think of commercial antivirus software, ransomware attacks on large corporations, or leaks of politically scandalous emails. But little is said about public security in the digital realm, and that is a big problem when we increasingly depend on information and communication technologies (ICTs) and the Internet of Things to carry out our ordinary daily activities.

Moreover, these technologies’ rapid development has led to a hybridization of crime. Many illicit activities now straddle the physical and virtual worlds, which has introduced new trade-offs and calls for a reconsideration of longstanding law-enforcement strategies.

Consider illegal recreational substances. Many people now seek to acquire these over the internet, because buying online is generally seen as safer than meeting a stranger in a dark alley. But online channels tend to put people into direct contact with the organized crime groups that control most of the distribution of illicit substances. When people hand over money to these groups, they are unwittingly helping to fund the global networks that also finance terrorism and traffic in arms, people, and human organs and tissues.

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