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Friday, April 12, 2024

ARTICLE: Integral Cyber Security

The remarkable advances in new information technologies, particularly in the digital sphere, offer exciting opportunities and grave risks, with serious implications for the pursuit of justice and harmony among peoples.  

Message of His Holiness Pope Francis on Artificial Intelligence for the 2024 World Day of Peace 

Introduction

Comparing the world of George Orwell’s “1984” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New Word”, Neil Postman concluded that the present reality leans toward Huxley’s dystopia: an authentic assessment of the future of liberal democracy, he wrote, requires us to reflect deeply on the power that technology itself has placed in humanity’s untrammeled hands, or perhaps on the simple illusion of the control we think to have on it. In our “brave new world” human beings are drowned by so much information (social media) and misinformation (fake news) that we are reduced to passivity, egoism, and conspiracy theories. “Truth”, or at least reason, seems dispersed in a sea of irrelevance, correlation between preferences prompted by the sort of unfiltered emotions on which the Internet is mostly based takes the place of the causation of scientific laws. Every day we become more of a trivial culture, where our desires rather than our fears (as Orwell suggested) might ruin usi. 

In such a chaotic world, where technology’s rapid rate of progress is outpacing serious moral and ethical considerations, the sempiternal teachings of traditional religions and philosophies are increasingly invoked by many from the tech, financial and political worlds, to bring back some sort of order, or at least a deeper understanding of the gravity of the transformation in human conduct that may result. Even if we are all aware of the many and powerful contradictions at issue —the hypocrisies and abuses that have occurred and that occur now and then in the “sacred-profane dichotomy”— at least conceptually, religions and philosophies have an advantage over nation-states in terms of both time (they exist way before these modern constructs were established) and space (they transcend national borders whilst pointing to the socio-economic issues that humanity faces).  

The sober, reasonable but passionate rediscovery of the time-honored traditions of thought and faith that anticipated not only the technocratic world of today, but also the positivist one of the first scientific and industrial revolutions, can lead humanity towards more inclusive concepts of security, development, and peace, as well as contributing to the ever-more-urgent debate on global regulatory structures of the digital domain. 

The notion of security in the third millennium 

A learned tradition that goes back at least to St. Augustine teaches that peace is not merely the absence of war but rather something positive (the tranquility of order and harmony), and it cannot be “reduced solely to the maintenance of a balance of power between enemiesii. Therefore, the “Integral Security” of individuals and communities must take into account the complex inter-dependencies with other people, nations and the earth as a whole. Jesus said, “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this: “Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31) 

During a time where “trust […] ceased to exist”iii, it may sound naïve to reaffirm how our (integral) security coincides with the (integral) security of others and depends on the same fraternal spirit of care and closeness that marked the Good Samaritan, for “Love […] is more than just a series of benevolent actions […]. Our love for others, for who they are, moves us to seek the best for their lives.”iv This invocation to return to the roots of humanity, to live according to harmonious development models, which is at the basis of a genuine and undervalued intuition of every traditional religion, is more urgent and necessary than ever. 

In this sense, from the perspective of Catholic Social Teaching (CST), an authentic development is holistic and not restricted to economic growth. Pope Francis explains this through the notion of integral ecology, seen as a paradigm able to articulate the fundamental relationships of the person with ‘God’, with ‘oneself’, with ‘other human beings’, and with ‘creation’v. It is also about the whole human person (not just his/her material dimension) and, through the dialogue between faith and reason, is the path to the good and the flourishing which is the vocation of the human family. Within the human quest for peace, therefore, we need to address all these relational dimensions, and today this includes the digital dimension. This is, in a nutshell, what CST defines as “integral security”. But is it realistic? Is it achievable? And in our hyper-technocratic and interconnected world, can this notion play a role at all? 

Human Fraternity in cyberspace, a Catholic reading. 

The potential benefits of an ethical approach to technology, towards which religions and philosophies are naturally inclined, are not limited to sociological speculation, they can invest harmonious financial and economic competition, as well as diplomacy. The foregoing is particularly apt in periods of rising international tensions. From her part, with Pope Francis’ magisterium, the Catholic Church has reaffirmed its doctrinal social principles (including the promotion of social justice, the care for the environment, the upholding of human dignity, etc.), by acknowledging how today they must be understood in the context of the current era of digitalization. This awareness is more crucial than ever, when financial interests transparently dominate politics for the benefit of the few, to the detriment of the common good; when it is viewed through a technocratic lens for which ruthless domination is paramount; and when it is trapped in a short-term view of the worldvi. This cannot bring development and prosperity, nor peace. 

If we consider our natural environment as a collective home, shared by everyone, to be protected for the benefit of the whole of humanity, then the preservation of this common good, and all its natural resources, is a vital necessity and very often also a condition for peace. From this it must necessarily follow that we should consider the artificial environment that technology has developed in the modern age in a similar manner. Cyberspace thus needs to be understood as a common goodvii —by definition, a global network— whose protection necessitates transnational dialogue, concerted actions and a global regulatory framework.  

Even more specifically, a call has been growing from certain leaders in and friends of the Church to consider our digital environment, or cyberspace –the sum of all modern technological advances and those still yet to come– as a commons that we must work collectively to manage, in order that it serves humanity, rather than itself; and all people, rather than a powerful few. Like a physical commons (the natural environment that is critical for the wellbeing of humanity, such as the open seas, outer space, etc.) or a legal social commons (i.e. cultural patrimony), a cyber commons, thoughtfully developed, is an essential aspect of integral human securityviii. Our digital environment is a tribute to, and evidence of, the creativity of human beings and the nobility of their vocation to participate responsibly in God’s creative actionix. 

As we see, beyond the moral and ethical consideration, an integral cyber security (promoting the whole of the person) is a practical way to organize the interconnectivity of the digital age we live in. This concept is practical and actionable. The relationship with the individual and the commons is ever more apparent in cyberspace, that an attack on an individual has cascading effects on others connected. This should reinforce how an insular approach (absent of war) is not enough in a digital age where we are interconnected, but it must promote order and stability in an outward facing way toward others and the commons.  

An integral cyber approach to the governance of the cyberspace 

Importantly, this cyberspace that we conceive as a “commons” is constantly changing, developing, and growing, (and this change is accelerating). For these reasons, preserving equal and secure access to this domain for current and future generations —free from intrusions of aggression, misinformation, power grabs, and weaponization— is essential to integral human security.  

As we see, more broadly speaking, the rapid expansion of technology, especially in the digital sphere, poses challenges that extend beyond technical considerations to anthropological, educational, social, and political dimensions. In his message for the 57th World Day of Peace, Pope Francis himself reflects on the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on world peace and urges the international community to adopt a binding international treaty that regulates its development and use. Hence the urgent need for an “integral” approach. 

With a due sense of approximation, and by using a parallel with what Ian Bremmer and Cliff Kupchan have recently written about the risk on an ungoverned AIx, we can say that cybercrime is moving much faster than governance efforts on cybersecurity.  

Besides, while generative AI and large language models (LLMs) are utilized in various cyber-attacks, it is also true that the integration of cybersecurity in autonomous systems offers several benefits. The clear and present danger is indeed urgent, given that 2024 is a year in which four billion people head to the polls: as Bremmer and Kupchan underline, generative AI will almost certainly be used by domestic and foreign actors to influence electoral campaigns, stoke division, undermine trust in democracy, and sow political chaos on an unprecedented scalexi 

By using the same four factors indicated by these authors, we can try to contribute to the cyberspace governance gap in 2024: 

  1. Politics. While technology is vulnerable, the policy world struggles to understand the complexity, vastness and urgency of the risks that exist in cybersecurityxii. As Bremmer and Kupchan affirm about AI, a proposed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)-style institution for cybersecurity would be a useful first step toward a shared global scientific understanding of the technology and its social and political implications. Our climate diplomacy is too slow, but at least it has started. Year after year, successive Conferences of the Parties (COP) have succeeded in creating worldwide awareness. This is also extremely urgent in cyber. 
  2. Inertia. Connected to that, governmental attention is finite, and there is ample evidence that the level of awareness of cyber risks is low —both at the state and societal level. The global cost of cybercrime was estimated to surpass $8 trillion in 2022, and the cost of cybercrime is projected to hit an annual $10.5 trillion by 2025, up from $3 trillion in 2015xiii. As a result, much of the necessary urgency and prioritization of cyber governance initiatives continue to fall by the wayside, particularly when their implementation requires hard trade-offs for governments. Very few experts understand how AI is integrated with cybersecurity.  Attention to AI topics is now very high; but once it drifts away from the headlines (which is likely, given how contemporary news cycles are structured), it will take a major crisis to force the issue to the fore again. And that may be too late.  
  3. Defection. The biggest stakeholders in AI have so far decided to cooperate on AI governance, with tech companies themselves committing to voluntary standards and guardrails. But as the technology advances and its enormous benefits become self-evident, the growing lure of geopolitical advantage and commercial interest will incentivize governments and companies to defect from the non-binding agreements and regimes they have joined to maximize their gains —or to not join in the first place. In the cyber case is even worse, since industry does not value security, as part as a broader lack of awareness of cyber risks in common people. One recent study found that 83 percent of directors said they would support management undertaking potentially disruptive innovation projects if they have the potential to increase long-term value, even if they create additional risksxiv. An example is the widespread adoption of mobile communication platforms particularly in financial services, in an effort to boost urgently needed economic development.  This quick adoption, however, has led the financial services sector to experience major breaches as much of the technology being implemented does not have the proper security controls in place. Therefore, in the case of cybersecurity, it’s extremely urgent to explore ways to incentivize business leaders to invest in cyber technologies as a broader effort to rebuild the social contract of our troubled times. 
  4. Technological speed. The last factor that explored by Bremmer and Kupchan is that AI will continue to improve quickly, with capabilities doubling roughly every six months —three times faster than Moore’s law. GPT-5, the next generation of OpenAI’s large language model, is set to come out this year — only to be rendered obsolete by the next as-of-yet inconceivable breakthrough in a matter of months. As AI models become exponentially more capable, the technology itself is outpacing efforts to contain it in real time. In our case, this would fall again into the need to address the big issue of the integration between AI, cyber and other technologies. Russia-Ukraine and Israel-Hamas wars show the crystal-clear evolving nature of cyber threats but also blur the lines between virtual and physical battlegrounds, making the so terribly feared risk of escalation a reality that already exists. 

Conclusions 

The unregulated flow of artificial intelligence into the fabric of humanity truly can lead to a transformation of the very nature of humanity. The possible timeline here is measurable in years, not decades. The unprecedented power of this technology —its potential to develop autonomously of human intention— should spur us to concerted action before AI hits a developmental threshold that makes it impossible for the world to consciously and purposefully shape and direct its contours. The profound warnings of philosophers writing just a few decades ago — such as Martin Heideggerxv, Leo Straussxvi, Eric Voegelinxvii (which for the most part have been dismissed as doom and gloom), not to mention Orwell and Huxley— could turn out to have been benign or quaint in retrospect. For all their differences, the concerns of serious thinkers across the philosophical and theological spectrum can help in building the ethical standards humanity needs to make individuals, corporations, and states accountable for cybercrime and, cyberattacks and the associated risks. Without a robust regulatory framework, humanity could move far beyond the Enlightenment’s drive to emancipate humanity by providing us with the tools to master nature —“science discovery should be driven not just by the quest for intellectual enlightenment, but also for the relief of man’s estate,” as Francis Bacon wrote in 1605. We are now no longer speaking of the relief of man’s estate —not even its transformation; we now are at the point where we can express a justified fear that the end of man’s estate could soon be upon us.   

Disclaimer: 

The views expressed in this scientific study are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the institutions he works for. The study represents the author’s individual analysis, research, reflection, and conclusions based on his expertise in the field. The institutions mentioned in this disclaimer hold no responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or validity of the information presented in the study. Furthermore, these institutions do not endorse or support any specific claims, recommendations, or opinions expressed within the study. This publication is intended for informational and scientific purposes only and should not be construed as official State policy or guidance. Readers are advised to consider the study’s findings in conjunction with other relevant research and consult with appropriate experts before drawing any firm conclusions or making decisions based on the information provided.  

i Peter G. Kirchschlaeger, Digital Transformation and Ethics, Nomos (2021).
ii Conciliar document Gaudium et Spes, n. 78.
iii Pope Benedect XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, n. 35.
iv Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti, nn. 79 and 94
v Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ [LS], nn. 10-11, 62, 124, 137 et ss.
vi Pope Francis, LS, nn. 101, 106 et ss.
vii Human Fraternity in Cyberspace, The Caritas in Veritate Foundation Working Papers (2021).
viii Chuck Brooks, Alessio Pecorario, Andreas Iacovou and Yuriy Tykhovlis, A Cyber Commons for Humankind, Security & Tech insights (2023).
ix LS, n. 131.
x Idem.
xi Risk 4: Ungoverned Ai, Eurasia Group’s 2024 Top Risks Report, (2024).
xii Larry Clinton, Cybersecurity for Business: Organization-Wide Strategies to Ensure Cyber Risk Is Not Just an IT Issue, Kogan Page (2022).by
xiii Steve Morgan, Cybercrime to cost the world $10.5 trillion annually By 2025, Cybercrime Magazine (2020)
xiv Larry Clinton, supra.
xv Martin Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology, GARLAND PUBLISHING, INC, (1954) (1977).
xvi Leo Strauss, On Tyranny: Corrected and Expanded Edition, Including the Strauss-Kojève Correspondence, eds. Victor Gourevitch and Michael S. Roth, Chicago: University of Chicago Press (1948) (2013).
xvii Eric Voegelin, Order and History, [Complete Set], Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge (1991)

author avatar
Alessio Pecorario
Alessio Pecorario, born on April 11th 1980, married, with two children is a Vatican Official, cybersecurity and new technologies expert. Alessio’s passions and skills are at the service of human dignity and the planet, with integral human development in the digital age as a foundation. As a PhD in constitutional comparative law, he has over 15 years of experience developed in sensitive roles in European and Vatican Institutions, including the coordination of the Security Task Force, within the Vatican Covid-19 Commission (VCC). Dr. Pecorario had the privilege to operate in institutional contexts that have given him the opportunity to approach the source of the most ancient knowledge and, at the same time, to confront himself with the emerging contexts of contemporary technology. Alessio Pecorario’s field of expertise is very rich and diversified, covering several domains of political science, with a specific focus on new technologies and internationally related security issues (especially cyber). He has a long list of presences on the media (TV, radio, social, etc.), and scientific publications, including “a cyber commons for humankind”, together with Prof. Chuck Brooks, named “Top Tech Person To Follow” by LinkedIn, voted “Cybersecurity Person of the Year”, cited Top 10 Global Tech & Cyber Expert & Influencer, Georgetown University Professor. This publication is conceptually connected with the one He did on “The Culture of Encounter and the Governance of Technology” for Georgetown University and La Civilità Cattolica, and for the first time in history, introduces the idea of the establishment of a Vatican Cyber Authority. And, for his work, Alessio has always had to travel on external missions in the four corners of the earth for his various Offices, attending many conferences, meetings, summits and the like. He speaks Italian, English, French and Spanish, and He can read Arabic. Besides, in all his activities, Dr. Pecorario tries to foster a proper ecumenical, interreligious and intercultural approach, in collaboration with numerous partners from other faith traditions and secular contexts, by building on a webinar called “Advancing integral disarmament in times of pandemic”, he organized on March 23rd 2021. On that occasion, in collaboration with the Strategic Concept for the Removal of Arms and Proliferation of the SOAS University in London, many departments of the Roman Curia (5 among the most prominent Cardinals of the Roman Curia spoke at that event), and other prominent international partners reflections and solutions were offered on the efforts to promote an integral approach to security for a long-lasting prosperity and peace.  However, among the vast and complex list of processes that Alessio coordinates, the one called “The common good in the digital age”, which encompasses many experts from all sectors on cybersecurity, blockchain, AI and many other new technologies, is the most relevant at present. The aim of it is to foster a dialogue between ethics and science, made in collaboration with some of the main actors on new tech, ranging from Silicon Valley to China, from the Middle East to African countries, and more. After a major event in September 2019,  Dr. Pecorario was entrusted to advance that process at the DPIHD and at the VCC, which culminated with another international conference, called “Promoting Integral Human Development in Times of Pandemic: New Technologies in the Post-COVID World”, on December 9th2021. These events were a unique opportunity for experts interested in collaborating with the Holy See on the intersection of technologies and integral human development to become acquainted with the Vatican entities and each other, with a view towards establishing a network of experts and begin further processes regarding new technologies across the Church. Connected to his expertise on new technologies, it might be useful to highlight that Alessio has performed two International Visitor Leadership Programs (IVLP), named “Promoting Cybersecurity II, A Multi-Regional Project”, which took place in the US, from September 10th to October 1st, 2022. The program included five destinations: Washington (D.C.), Austin (Texas), San Antonio (Texas), Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) and New York (New York). The IVLP is the U.S. Department of State’s (DoS) premier professional exchange program. Through short-term visits to the United States, current and emerging foreign leaders in a variety of fields experience the country firsthand and cultivate lasting relationships with their American counterparts. Over 500 current and former Heads of Government and State and many other distinguished world leaders in the public and private sectors have participated in the IVLP. Participants can only be indicated by the US Embassies to the world and selected by the US Department of State. Alessio is part of Astana Club the Minerva Dialogues, an assembly that brings together experts from the world of technology – scientists, engineers, business leaders, lawyers and philosophers – of the Silicon Valley and representatives of the Church – curial officials, theologians and ethicists – with the aim of studying and fostering greater awareness of the social and cultural impact of digital technologies, particularly artificial intelligence. Last but not least, Alessio is developing institutional relationships in the field of the space economy. In fact, He is the coordinator the Vatican conference called “The seed of hope”, on meaning and destinies of the space economy. With some of the most prominent world experts and stakeholders it’s being debated the emerging digital and sociopolitical challenges related to the impact of new technologies in the domain of the space economy.
Alessio Pecorario
Alessio Pecorario
Alessio Pecorario, born on April 11th 1980, married, with two children is a Vatican Official, cybersecurity and new technologies expert. Alessio’s passions and skills are at the service of human dignity and the planet, with integral human development in the digital age as a foundation. As a PhD in constitutional comparative law, he has over 15 years of experience developed in sensitive roles in European and Vatican Institutions, including the coordination of the Security Task Force, within the Vatican Covid-19 Commission (VCC). Dr. Pecorario had the privilege to operate in institutional contexts that have given him the opportunity to approach the source of the most ancient knowledge and, at the same time, to confront himself with the emerging contexts of contemporary technology. Alessio Pecorario’s field of expertise is very rich and diversified, covering several domains of political science, with a specific focus on new technologies and internationally related security issues (especially cyber). He has a long list of presences on the media (TV, radio, social, etc.), and scientific publications, including “a cyber commons for humankind”, together with Prof. Chuck Brooks, named “Top Tech Person To Follow” by LinkedIn, voted “Cybersecurity Person of the Year”, cited Top 10 Global Tech & Cyber Expert & Influencer, Georgetown University Professor. This publication is conceptually connected with the one He did on “The Culture of Encounter and the Governance of Technology” for Georgetown University and La Civilità Cattolica, and for the first time in history, introduces the idea of the establishment of a Vatican Cyber Authority. And, for his work, Alessio has always had to travel on external missions in the four corners of the earth for his various Offices, attending many conferences, meetings, summits and the like. He speaks Italian, English, French and Spanish, and He can read Arabic. Besides, in all his activities, Dr. Pecorario tries to foster a proper ecumenical, interreligious and intercultural approach, in collaboration with numerous partners from other faith traditions and secular contexts, by building on a webinar called “Advancing integral disarmament in times of pandemic”, he organized on March 23rd 2021. On that occasion, in collaboration with the Strategic Concept for the Removal of Arms and Proliferation of the SOAS University in London, many departments of the Roman Curia (5 among the most prominent Cardinals of the Roman Curia spoke at that event), and other prominent international partners reflections and solutions were offered on the efforts to promote an integral approach to security for a long-lasting prosperity and peace.  However, among the vast and complex list of processes that Alessio coordinates, the one called “The common good in the digital age”, which encompasses many experts from all sectors on cybersecurity, blockchain, AI and many other new technologies, is the most relevant at present. The aim of it is to foster a dialogue between ethics and science, made in collaboration with some of the main actors on new tech, ranging from Silicon Valley to China, from the Middle East to African countries, and more. After a major event in September 2019,  Dr. Pecorario was entrusted to advance that process at the DPIHD and at the VCC, which culminated with another international conference, called “Promoting Integral Human Development in Times of Pandemic: New Technologies in the Post-COVID World”, on December 9th2021. These events were a unique opportunity for experts interested in collaborating with the Holy See on the intersection of technologies and integral human development to become acquainted with the Vatican entities and each other, with a view towards establishing a network of experts and begin further processes regarding new technologies across the Church. Connected to his expertise on new technologies, it might be useful to highlight that Alessio has performed two International Visitor Leadership Programs (IVLP), named “Promoting Cybersecurity II, A Multi-Regional Project”, which took place in the US, from September 10th to October 1st, 2022. The program included five destinations: Washington (D.C.), Austin (Texas), San Antonio (Texas), Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) and New York (New York). The IVLP is the U.S. Department of State’s (DoS) premier professional exchange program. Through short-term visits to the United States, current and emerging foreign leaders in a variety of fields experience the country firsthand and cultivate lasting relationships with their American counterparts. Over 500 current and former Heads of Government and State and many other distinguished world leaders in the public and private sectors have participated in the IVLP. Participants can only be indicated by the US Embassies to the world and selected by the US Department of State. Alessio is part of Astana Club the Minerva Dialogues, an assembly that brings together experts from the world of technology – scientists, engineers, business leaders, lawyers and philosophers – of the Silicon Valley and representatives of the Church – curial officials, theologians and ethicists – with the aim of studying and fostering greater awareness of the social and cultural impact of digital technologies, particularly artificial intelligence. Last but not least, Alessio is developing institutional relationships in the field of the space economy. In fact, He is the coordinator the Vatican conference called “The seed of hope”, on meaning and destinies of the space economy. With some of the most prominent world experts and stakeholders it’s being debated the emerging digital and sociopolitical challenges related to the impact of new technologies in the domain of the space economy.

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