In an interview with Canada’s International Development Research Centre and Canadian Geographic, Citizen Lab Director Ron Deibert explained the work of the Cyber Stewards Network (CSN), which aims to increases cybersecurity in the global south, and conducts advocacy campaigns surrounding the protection of human rights in the digital sphere.
Asked about the formation of the CSN, Delbert said “The development of the Internet is one of the most profound changes in communications in human history. We need people around the world working locally but thinking globally about how to protect it, so in partnership with the International Development Research Centre, Citizen Lab formed the network, which combines research and advocacy. A lot of the groups in the network want to do more than just research — they want to push for change. We help them with the research and they do the advocacy.”
He went to to discuss the work the network has done in protecting vulnerable groups, such as exiled Tibetans who were the target of cyberattacks by the Chinese government. Citizen Lab partnered with the Tibet Action Institute to develop messaging understandable by and relatable to Tibetans that would encourage them to follow cybersecurity best practices. Deibert also touched on the need for civil society to protect themselves as they increasingly become the target of advanced spyware technologies, given that they frequently express political dissent. He concluded: “Governments — whether in Nigeria, Latin America or the Middle East — are putting in draconian restrictions such as mass surveillance programs and curtailing the activities of journalists, all under the rubric of cybersecurity. Securing cyberspace involves more than technical solutions because however valuable those may be, they’re not going to solve the problem in its entirety because technologies are always changing. We also need to approach the problems as an issue that arises from government and private-sector behavior, which will require wholesale legal and policy changes. Otherwise, these restriction and surveillance activities will ultimately result in a crisis of democracy.”