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Philosophy, Plato, and cybersecurity as a public service

Kacy Zurkus | July 16, 2016
Will the world’s next cybersecurity experts know more about criminology, philosophy, and sociology than they do about engineering?

If you are unfamiliar with the story "The Ring of Gyges" from Plato's Republic, its relevance to cybercrime is timely, certifying once again that the flaws of human nature transcend time and generation.

In the story, Glaucon and Socrates are discussing the concept of justice and why people do what is good rather than do what they would prefer to do, which is commit acts of injustice. To make his point, Glaucon recounts for Socrates the tale of Gyges, a shepherd, who happened upon a magic ring. When he turned the ring inward, Gyges became invisible. Twisting the collet outward, he reappeared.

Glaucon argues that if there were two rings, one to be worn by the just and one by the unjust man, "No man can be imagined to be of such an iron nature that he would stand fast in justice. No man would keep his hands off what was not his own when he could safely take what he liked out of the market, or go into houses and lie with any one at his pleasure, or kill or release from prison whom he would, and in all respects be like a God among men."

Inevitably, the actions of the just and the unjust would be the same, for where man is able to safely do wrong without consequence, he will indeed be unjust.

Could Plato have predicted the evolution of society, he might have envisioned the world in which we live now. Rather than magic rings, we have the world wide web and the dark web, arguably availing man of the same privileges that the magic rings secured him thousands of years ago.

This question at the heart of the debate between Glaucon and Socrates is whether we will always be driven to design realms in which we can exist in anonymity. Glaucon asserts that, "All men believe in their hearts that injustice is far more profitable to the individual than justice."

Today, the world's economy and public services rely on technology. As such, protecting the technology, data and services of the world's organizations is vital and inspiring work. An important public service that relies upon those who are just.

Peter Bauer, CEO of Mimecast, believes the real requirement to fill the employment vacancies in the cybersecurity industry is to motivate and inspire young people, in particular, about the opportunity to make a real difference in their global, national and local communities through a career in IT security.

"The world is moving to an unprecedented level of connectivity. If you think about the wild west and lawlessness, there was a natural cap on crime because you had no anonymity. You had to be physically present and expose yourself to fairly considerable risk," said Bauer.


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