[Perspective] Why the truth matters

By Kuksung Nam, The Readable
Jun. 15, 2022 8:14PM KST

“The veracity of information is the absolute imperative in cybersecurity.” The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of RSA said at the world’s largest cybersecurity conference, RSAC, on June 6. During the event, which was held in San Francisco from June 6 to 9, Rohit Ghai dedicated nearly one third of his twenty-four minute opening keynote to talk about the importance of accurate information.

Not just at the beginning of the RSA conference but also at the end, the topic of accurate information was once again in the spotlight. Hugh Thompson, the Program Committee Chair of the RSA conference, and three guests spent the entire hour and eight minutes of the closing keynote discussing information disorder. As a journalist, disinformation and truth are not new concepts. In the field of journalism, finding and conveying the right information has been a critical task for years. I was naturally curious as to why the cybersecurity community became so focused on authentic information.

The key to answering this question was in the words of the CEO. He stressed that while the information technology (IT) infrastructure can be rebooted and replaced, information cannot be treated in the same way. If deepfakes, bots, cyborgs, and other state-of-the-art technologies are in the wrong hands, information could easily be tampered with. “When Maverick says, 'Don't think, just do,' it is the real Tom Cruise speaking, not his deepfake doppelganger TikTok Tom,” said the CEO. “And Kanye West is not giving out free bitcoin or any other crypto for that matter.”

Widespread disinformation can misguide people’s thoughts and decisions. False information could harm democracy. It could also be weaponized in war. It is not just dire speculation, but a steel cold reality. There have been attempts to use information as a weapon in the Russia-Ukraine war. The worst thing is that once the misinformation is out in the public, it is almost impossible to evaluate within seconds whether it is true or false. Katie Couric, the first woman to solo anchor a program on a major US television network, described this conundrum as “lies run around the world before the truth gets a chance to tie its shoes” in the closing keynote.

Getting the right information, the truth, is crucial not just in the field of journalism, but also in the domain of cybersecurity. Could there be a way to fix this problem? Both keynote speakers explain that there isn’t a short cut. There is not a magical technology that could drive out misinformation in one fell swoop. Chris Krebs, the founding director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), said truthfully in his conversation with Hugh Thompson that if we want to be in a democratic society, we must work for it.

As people’s lives are intertwined more and more with technology, the cybersecurity community’s role in making a difference will inevitably grow. The President of the Color of Change, Rashad Robinson, urged cybersecurity professionals to take the actions that are within their power. “Cybersecurity experts, who work for major corporations, can deal with the terms of service inside their companies to make sure that they are actually being enforced even when powerful people violate them from time to time,” said Robinson in the closing keynote speech.

Tasks lie ahead. Technologies and algorithms are being developed at this very moment to defy the information disorder. However, we must keep in mind that technoloty cannot be the final weapon. As the CEO of the RSA elaborated, “common sense, ladies and gentlemen, remains the most powerful.”


The cover image of this article was photographed by Dain Oh.

Kuksung Nam is a cybersecurity journalist for The Readable. She covers cybersecurity issues in South Korea, including the public and private sectors. Prior to joining The Readable, she worked as a political reporter for one of the top-five local newspapers in South Korea, The Kyeongin Ilbo, where she reported several exclusive stories regarding the misconduct of local government officials. She is currently focused on issues related to anti-fraud, as well as threats and crimes in cyberspace. She is a Korean native who is fluent in English and French, and she is interested in delivering the news to a global audience.