IGMENA Hangout : The legal battle for the future of cyber security : What is the implication for the Mena region?  

31 June, 2016 

The sixth IGMENA Google Hangout of 2016 addressed the topic of the legal battle for the future of cyber security : What is the implication for the Mena region? The debate was moderated by Mr. Hamza Ben Mehrez, the Policy Analyst Lead at IGMENA. The participants invited to this debate were prominent young Internet governance advocates from across the MENA region.

  • Ms. Khouloud Dawahi, Internet Policy and legal Analyst, (MA) Common law, Tunisia
  • Mr. Hamza Salem, Computer Engineer, developer & Audio blogger, Jordan
  • Mr. Nidham Gandoura, Applied Sciences and telecommunication Engineer, Intercultural Comm Researcher INSAT, Tunisia  
  • Ms. Doaa Shendy, Internet Policy Analyst, Lawyer Stanley group, Egypt 

Ms. Khouloud Dawahi gave an overview about the U.S. government and Apple case, in which a federal judge asked Apple to help the FBI unlock an iPhone belonging to Syed Farook, who was responsible for the shootings in San Bernardino in December 2015. The judge asked Apple to provide "reasonable technical assistance" to the U.S. authorities, which would require the technology giant to override the system that disables the phone after 10 unsuccessful password attempts. Once this feature kicks in, all the data on the phone is inaccessible. Apple declined to help the FBI.  What was the legal outcome? A hearing was postponed after the government said that it had found a third party that was able to unlock the iPhone and the Department of Justice said it had managed to access the data on the iPhone in question and asked the judge to drop the case. Apple stuck to its guns on defending civil liberties. 

Ms. Dawahi talked about the need to build a national cyber security legal framework as a collaborative effort between government, industry and civil society to ensure every citizen in the MENA region and beyond has the resources they need to stay safer and more secure online. A national and regional Cyber Security Alliance should be established to reach consumers, among small and medium-sized businesses, corporations, educational institutions, and young people across the nation. The MENA region should focus on creating a culture of cyber security in the workplace through efforts like employee education, training, and awareness by promoting the role of a cyber-security task force and following best practices. 

During the hangout discussion, the speakers mentioned that cybercrime has become too common in our connected world. While online crime is often associated with hackers stealing personal information for monetary gain, crime on the Internet takes many forms. Cybercrime can include everything from organizational data breaches to consumer issues like identity theft, so-called “revenge porn,” cyber-stalking, harassment and bullying to child sexual exploitation and abuse to online radicalization, violence and recruitment to terrorist networks like ISIS.

In the Mena region, fighting cyber crime requires a high level of collaboration among law enforcement, government agencies, the private sector and the general public by focusing on awareness of the different types of online crime, offering steps people can take to better protect themselves and addressing how law enforcement and others can collaborate to combat cybercrime. In addition, careers in fighting cybercrime will be spotlighted.
Mr.Nidham Gandoura mentioned that it is certainly possible to create an entirely new operating system to undermine our security features as the government wants through “legal exceptions.” But it’s something we believe is too dangerous to do. The only way to guarantee that such a powerful tool isn’t abused and doesn’t fall into the wrong hands is to never create it. Rumblings between technology companies and the government are likely to continue. IPhone companies need to continue bolstering security in their software and devices.

Mr. Nidham Gandoura mentioned that in the Mena region CS should attract more tech-savvy experts who will work on promoting online security policies and needs to build strong security into the iPhone because people carry so much personal information on their phones today, and there are new data breaches every week affecting individuals, companies and governments. If we lose control of our data, we put both our privacy and our safety at risk. Second, the order would set a legal precedent that would expand the powers of the government and we simply don’t know where that would lead us. Should the government be allowed to order us to create other capabilities for surveillance purposes, such as recording conversations or location tracking? This would set a very dangerous precedent. 

Mr. Hamza Salem mentioned that the Apple fight with the FBI was just another marketing strategy to convince end users that MNCs care about end-users’ private data safety. Any government should not have the right to access any data without legal permission. In a case where the person is dead, third party organizations can be involved with the case to monitor the behavior of tech companies and governmental involvement. We need to raise awareness about social data security and privacy through ‘internet education.’  We need to protect the people in the Middle East from government and corporate censorship and make clear  laws and legislation that champion privacy in the Middle East as a fundamental human right that goes beyond cultural boundaries and norms.

There is a gap between technology and the law because policies and regulations related to online security are vaguely and ambiguously defined, maybe intentionally by the lawyers and jurists who work in this field. There is a need for more online security trainings for the MENA region and there is a fundamental need to educate people on the safe use of technology to avoid targeting  the safety of end users’ data protection and privacy.  
Conversation summarized and edited by
Mr. Hamza Ben Mehrez, Policy Analyst Lead, IGMENA