The current situation underlines the importance of securing the cyberspace to ensure the sovereignty of a state. There has been a sharp increase in the number of cyber attacks across the globe. A mammoth number of leaked personal data were listed even in the US and important personalities like Bill Gates, Barack Obama, and Elon Musk were targeted. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported a significant spike in Covid related cyber crimes - around 20,000 - as of July. This has increased in the last couple of months till September. Along with governmental websites, personal and financial data of common citizens are also under threat.
Realising the need to protect the US cyber space, American President Donald Trump has taken a few steps. Unlike the Indian government that banned Chinese apps, Trump tried to buy the applications that were identified as malicious. Trump’s present stance to attack TikTok is certainly heavily politicised. Trump earlier asked ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok to sell their US operation to an American company – giving a 45 days deadline and threatened to ban them if they did not comply.
Significantly, the company has more than 100 million American users. The Trump administration argued, if an American company occupies the app’s operations, the data centre and other related activities can be regulated from the US and that would reduce the risk of data leakage. After the US-China trade war, this emerging digital hostility is quite significant.
China imposed restrictions on AI export
The Chinese government has imposed unprecedented restrictions on the export of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies retaliating to US. Beijing added 23 new categories of AI interface including speech-and-text-recognition that will require prior government approval to be sold to a foreign company. China’s Ministry of Commerce stated that it was done to ‘formalise the management of technology export’ and ‘safeguard national economic security’.
But taking a step back, ByteDance has decided to sell its US business. This will now require the approval of the Chinese government. Ousting Microsoft’s lucrative bids, TikTok decided to give Oracle a 12.5% stake and Walmart a 7.5% stake. Bytedance will own 80% stake.
On September 20, Trump stated to the press that the ban of WeChat and TikTok in the US has been postponed till November 12. This declaration has given China some elbow room. It is well-known that Safra Catz, CEO, Oracle and Larry Ellison, Chairman, Oracle - are politically quite close to Donald Trump. Additionally, 40% of ByteDance is owned by US Venture capital firms and that cumulatively leads to an American dominance over the business. The company’s US headquarters and data centres will be expanded and developed by pulling the operations out of China.
How is a data centre important?
Cyber attacks are now regularly changing their nature and being tough to identify. The numbers of attacks are also getting higher. Impacts are being noticed in a very short periods - with the help of smart breaching. Data centres with improved cyber security tools play an important role to protect the stored information. Tracking suspicious traffic in cyber space - prior to the ultimate leakage can be ensured by improved security infrastructure in the data centres.
Commenting on the importance of secured data centres, Indranil Naiya, an information security expert, told BE, “Data centre location is extremely important because in a different country, all data sovereignty factors are different. Such factors are data privacy, local laws, where the data will be stored, how that data will be secured etc. It plays a huge role in user privacy as well as in security too because when we use the application, we share our email, phone number and sometimes our financial information. All this information can be misused. So, a data centre provider must take extra precautions to ensure that all data sovereignty requirements are met. This can be achieved by ensuring the location of the data centre in a country where there are strong privacy laws.”
But significantly, apps like Facebook and Twitter that were reported as threats are not Chinese apps. Under the given circumstances, spreading adequate awareness by the governmental agencies worldwide needs to be done.