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Gendering Cybersecurity through Women, Peace and Security: Gender and Human Rights in National-level – Approaches to Cybersecurity – World | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware


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Authors: Julia-Silvana Hofstetter, ICT4Peace Foundation Panthea Pourmalek, Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP)
Editor: Mavic Cabrera-Balleza, GNWP Project Advisors: Anne-Marie Buzatu, ICT4P, Katrina Leclerc, GNWP

1. INTRODUCTION

1.1 Overview and Summary

In remarks made on 23 May 2022, Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo emphasized the “significant new risks” of technological advances. The UnderSecretary-General recognized the progress made by Member States in “establishing a normative framework to ensure responsible behavior in cyberspace,” primarily through the UN General Assembly. She further called for building consensus on the use and risks of digital technologies, alongside other Our Common Agenda components, including the New Agenda for Peace.
A Case for Gender-Sensitive Cybersecurity This report explores the new risks posed by emerging and modern technologies through a gender lens, in particular, that of the Women, Peace and Security agenda.

The benefits of approaching cybersecurity from a gender perspective are threefold.

First, it allows for an acknowledgment that women and other marginalized groups in society experience and use the cyberspace differently. They are often disproportionately harmed by cyber threats or faced with particular gendered cyber harms. The gendered nature of cybersecurity extends beyond cyber threats and into drafting and implementation of cybersecurity policy. International and national cybersecurity policies often neglect women’s and other vulnerable groups’ particular needs resulting from the gendered cyber threat landscape. These groups’ representation in cybersecurity policymaking and technology development is limited, increasing the risk of perpetuating gender inequality through cybersecurity policies and the general digitalization of public service. A clear understanding of the complexities of women’s experiences in cyberspace due to structural inequalities, combined with accountability and political commitment, may result in more effective cybersecurity policies. Second, it creates the potential to improve women and other marginalized groups’ access to cybersecurity provisions, from emergency response to legal remedies, which are often limited due to pre-existing discriminatory societal structures. These groups are also more often affected by unintended negative consequences of state actions in cyberspace. Third, incorporating a gendered perspective helps to address blind spots in cybersecurity policy. Adopting a humancentric and gender-sensitive approach to cybersecurity is crucial to fill gaps in cybersecurity policies created by the state- and business-centric approaches. Such approaches create a limited view of cyber threat assessments and options for cybersecurity provision and stand as a barrier to more holistic and effective cybersecurity responses.

Growing Interest in Gender Perspectives in National and International Cybersecurity There is a growing awareness on the multilateral level of the need to integrate a gender perspective into international cybersecurity. Along these lines, state, and civil society actors have called for this purpose to apply the Women, Peace, and Security agenda (WPS), along with international frameworks and conventions on gender equality, to these policies. However, less attention has been given to the implications of the WPS and other international frameworks for formulating policies. This study addresses this gap by analyzing the integration or non-integration of gender and women’s rights in National Cyber Security Strategies (NCS) and how cybersecurity concerns are reflected or not reflected in National Action Plans (NAPs) on WPS and other relevant women’s rights and gender equality policy instruments. Employing a WPS lens, it further explores a need for conflict-sensitive approaches to cybersecurity and the risks faced by conflictaffected populations, women and girls in conflict-affected and insecure contexts, and women and youth peacebuilders.

Recommendations

Based on the analysis conducted, the report recommends the following to improve the gender sensitivity of national-level approaches to cybersecurity:

  1. Expand the definition of cybersecurity to include a human-centric approach, emphasizing human rights;

  2. Raise the profile of gender issues by including a pledge to mainstream gender in all cybersecurity design and implementation processes;

  3. Strengthen civil society’s role through inclusive multi-stakeholder engagement; and 4. Subject each cybersecurity measure to a context-specific ‘do no harm’ assessment to ensure conflict-sensitive cybersecurity policies.

Detailed recommendations on capacity-building, awareness-raising, and building expertise in cybersecurity are available in section 6 of this report.

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