Updating the cyber capacity building network

Improving the map of cyber security capacity building.

In a previous post, I promised updates on the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise (GCFE) effort to map all international cyber security capacity building projects.  That includes all the projects that have finished, all that are running now and even some that are at the planning stage.  That’s a lot of projects!  At least a thousand, I estimate.

Only by having a clear view of all cyber capacity building projects can people properly coordinate their activities and make use of what has gone before.  The mapping effort will also contribute to transparency and should provide useful material for research, which in turn will improve future capacity building.

The good news to report is that since my last post the GFCE has doubled the number of projects in its database to over 500.  Information on all these projects is steadily being uploaded to a new GFCE knowledge sharing site: www.cybilportal.org.

While that upload continues you can still search all 500+ projects at www.capacitylabs.org/projects.  That temporary site has a new, more mobile friendly, landing page. Plus, the original desktop layout.  Plus, a new animated data visuals page.  What more could you want?  No really, tell me what more you’d like to help you explore the data and I’ll pass it on to the Cybil Portal team to consider as a user request for the new site.

Updating the cyber capacity building network map

In my previous post, I showed how the project data could be repurposed to create an explorable network diagram of the international cyber capacity building community.  For this post, I’ve repeated that network mapping, adding the latest project information.  This is what the network looks like now:

International cyber security capacity building network as at October 2019.
The international cyber capacity network mapped with 500 projects

As before, you can explore the network here.

So, what has changed?  The most notable difference is that the largest node in the network is no longer the UK (as a funder) but the International Telecommunications Union (as an implementer). The behind-the-scenes reason for this is that the ITU gave an intern the task of identifying every project they had run and sending that information to the GFCE.  This resulted in the number of their projects in the database increasing from 9 to 147.  That is more than any other organisation has submitted or, as far as we know, has run.

Reaching an accurate picture

In this early phase of data collection we should anticipate big changes in the network diagram, as batches of missing projects are uploaded in bulk.  However, sometime next year I expect us to have gathered all the big handfuls of old projects.  At this point the diagram should settle to a (fairly) complete and accurate picture of the international cyber capacity building network.  Any changes to the diagram after this point will reflect real time changes in the partnerships between countries and organisations as they happen. 

I expect the settled network to only change slowly, but these changes may nonetheless reveal some interesting trends, such as new countries or regions – for example central Africa – appearing in the community network for the first time.  Or the gradual emergence of new themes of capacity building.

Mapping the network can change the network

Even better than simply tracking projects, this mapping effort is directly influencing whether new countries enter the capacity building community and thereby benefit from international support. 

At the GFCE 2018 Annual Meeting, a workshop on Africa looked at a map of projects on the continent – using the GFCE database – and saw that many countries had not yet been part of any project.  There were large blank spaces in the map, especially in central Africa.  These countries were not part of the community network.

The conclusion of the conversation that meeting started was that the GFCE should do more to connect with those countries not in the network.  For example, by holding a meeting in Africa.  That in turn led to the Africa Union Commission kindly offering to host the 2019 Annual Meeting in Addis Ababa this October. 

Five different organisations worked together to offer sponsorship for two officials from every AU member to attend the Annual Meeting.   The result was that 35 African countries joined the conference to discuss and collaborate on cyber capacity building.  How that event went will be the subject for a future post.

Keep watching this space

If you have read this far then it may mean you are one of the people whose life this project database is meant to make a little bit easier.  Your work life that is. I make no big claims as to what project mapping can do for your personal life.

If you are one of those people then please do check out the Cybil Portal, the data visualisation demo site or the explorable network diagram on this blog and let me know what you think and how we can make them better. 

The shoulders we stand on: the start of cyber security capacity building

Cyber security capacity building started a decade and a half ago. Fortunately, somebody took a snapshot.

“The longer you can look back, the farther you can look forward”

Winston Churchill

Graham Greene and I once held the same job title: British political officer in Sierra Leone. He went on to sell 20 million copies of his 24 novels and was twice shortlisted for the Nobel Prize in Literature.  I write this blog.

We did not actually do the same job: he was an intelligence officer and I was a diplomat. Nonetheless this started me thinking about who had come before me and what advice they would give if they were still around.

It is in this spirit that I’ve begun my new role in the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise (GFCE) secretariat, by looking back. I wanted to know where international cyber capacity building began.  What I’ve learnt is that it has its roots in the mid-2000s.  And fortunately somebody at the time had the foresight to take a snapshot.

When did cyber security capacity building start?

I am not so foolish as to try to put a definitive date on the origin of either cyber security or international cyber capacity building.  At least not yet. So instead I’ll start with a recap of four significant milestones:

In 1971, Bob Thomas wrote a programme that hopped between terminals on ARPANET (a precursor to the internet) and left the message: “I’m the Creeper: catch me if you can.”

In 1988, Robert Morris committed the first crime to be successfully prosecuted under the US Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. His Morris Worm disrupted 10% of the internet through a security experiment that turned into an unintended DDOS attack. The US government responded by establishing the first computer emergency response team (CERT/CC) at Carnegie Mellon University. Morris went on to become an MIT professor and multi-millionaire.

In 2002, the ITU Plenipotentiary in Marrakesh passed Resolution 130 giving ITU a mandate for “building confidence and security in the use of ICTs”. In the same year, NATO included the need for capacity building in its report, “Vulnerability of the Interconnected Society”.

In 2007, the ITU launched the Global Cybersecurity Agenda, with capacity building as one of its five strategic pillars. This emerged from the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), which pointed the way towards capacity building.

So, if we were to search for a start date to international cyber security capacity building we might reasonably begin looking between 2002 and 2007. 

It is our good fortune that during this period somebody was mapping the international cyber landscape. Even better, they wrote a book about it.

The hunt for project zero

“A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.”

Graham Greene

Michael Portnoy and Seymour Goodman are my unsung heroes of cyber capacity building mapping.  In 2008, they wrote Global Initiatives to Secure Cyberspace: An Emerging Landscape.  A new copy from Amazon will cost you £113 ($145). I think it’s worth every penny (cent). Although I must confess to having bought a second hand copy.

What Portnoy and Seymour’s book gives us is a 176-page snapshot of international collaborative efforts to improve cyber security in the mid-2000s.  Very few of the international cyber initiatives they found were capacity building projects, but by sifting through those that were we can further narrow the window for their start.

Continue reading “The shoulders we stand on: the start of cyber security capacity building”

Mapping the cyber security capacity building network: it just got easier

Doctors shocked by this one trick to visualise the international cyber capacity building network!

Okay, okay, by “doctors” I mean some people with PhDs and when I say they were “shocked” it might be fairer to say they were pleasantly surprised. But there really is a new shortcut to mapping the network of actors involved in international cyber security capacity building. And if you’ve read this far I hope you’ll find it useful.

What makes this new shortcut possible is an effort by the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise (GFCE) to collect information on international cyber security capacity building projects. This is making available new data sets and a project mapping tool that can simplify the task of visualising our community network to just a few clicks.

I’ve been lucky enough to be part of the team developing the GFCE’s project mapping tool. However in this personal blog I’d like to do something a little different. Instead of looking at the relationships between projects I’ll be using the same data – available to all – to look at the network of relationships between capacity building actors.

A simple network

To see a very simple network, with only implementers and the countries or regions they are helping, we can use the network chart in the GFCE’s project mapping tool. With the tool open, hover your mouse over the top right hand corner of the network and click the expand icon that appears. It should open a new page that looks like this…

The international cyber security capacity building network containing just implementers and host countries.
A simple network of implementers and the countries/regions they help

A richer network

To explore the network in greater detail I used a free visualising programme called Gephi and a plugin developed by the Oxford Internet Institute called sigma js. With these we now have a network that looks like this…

Continue reading “Mapping the cyber security capacity building network: it just got easier”