Tip of the iceberg?

中国日报网 2015-12-15 11:13



Tip of the iceberg?

Reader question:

Please explain this headline, particularly “tip of the iceberg”: “Is the Adobe Hack Just the Tip of the Iceberg?”

My comments:

This headlines an article discussing data theft involving Adobe, the software firm best known for Photoshop.

Some time ago as a matter of fact, hackers (program writers) penetrated Adobe’s computer system and stole customer data involving millions of people.

That’s the problem being discussed, and the writer asks: Is this cyber security breach just the tip of iceberg?

In other words, the writer wonders whether this is indicative of a larger problem, that Adobe and other firms may be facing similar threats – and more and more of them.

Tip of the iceberg, you see, literally means the very tip or top of the iceberg, which is a gigantic piece of ice floating in the sea. Berg is originally Dutch for a mountain, so you see an iceberg can be enormous in size.

The Titanic, for example, was sunk by an iceberg. That’ll give you an idea how big and powerful an iceberg can be.

Anyways, the thing with an iceberg is that what you see is just a tiny small part of the thing. Ice is slightly lighter than water. Hence, an iceberg is able to remain afloat. Well, more from Wikipedia:

Because the density of pure ice is about 920 kg/m³, and that of seawater about 1025 kg/m³, typically only one-twelfth of the volume of an iceberg is above water. The shape of the underwater portion can be difficult to judge by looking at the portion above the surface. This has led to the expression “tip of the iceberg”, for a problem or difficulty that is only a small manifestation of a larger problem.

See? The iceberg we actually see is only a small hint of the whole thing.

Hence by extension and analogy, if a problem is described as the tip of the iceberg, then it indicates that the problem could be much larger and much more serious than what meets the eye.

This larger and more serious problem, however, is currently undetected because, as it is with the iceberg, it is blow surface and hidden from view.

All right, here are more media examples to further hammer the point home:

1. Awareness about human trafficking in the United States has grown extensively, with the annual number of calls to a national trafficking hot line more than tripling – from about 5,800 calls in 2008 to nearly 21,000 in 2012.

During those five years, calls as well as e-mails – ranging from labor trafficking victims seeking help to truckers calling in tips about young girls being prostituted – generated information on more than 9,000 cases of trafficking. (Some of these cases were later confirmed, while others met a series of criteria indicating trafficking.) Involving more than 19,000 possible victims, the cases were analyzed in a report released Thursday by the Polaris Project in Washington, which operates the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) Hotline.

Among the cases, 64 percent involved sex trafficking, 22 percent involved labor trafficking, and nearly 3 percent involved both.

“Human trafficking is happening in every state, all across the United States ... and this report is just showing the tip of the iceberg,” says Bradley Myles, CEO of Polaris Project. To bring resources to bear on the problem, the anti-trafficking field is “dependent on the community to be the eyes and ears and to tell us when they see something suspicious or ... know about a survivor." He adds, "It all starts with a call.”

- Human trafficking: As awareness grows, calls triple to national hot line, CSMonitor.com, November 22, 2013.

2. It almost comes as no surprise when new levels of spying are uncovered in the ‘post Snowden era.’ Government agencies are one thing, but surprise is the least valid emotion when information gives light to the involvement of big business. The information we have now may only be showing the tip of the iceberg, however Cable and Wireless involvements seems to be the level of sinking the Titanic on its own.

In a Joint investigation with German broadcaster WDR, Channel 4 News released information directly from Snowden on the level of GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) spying on not just the UK but the world. A level at which Snowden was outspoken over, describing as “the most intrusive.” Unable to deal with the level of information now flowing under the beaches of Cornwall, they had huge help from the very people responsible for the cable. In an operation they called ‘Mastering the internet’ GCHQ was provided information directly by Cable and Wireless.

Cable and Wireless have been responsible for thousands of miles of cable leaving the beaches of Cornwall for over a century. It would appear that they have been providing a backdoor to GCHQ into the communications for several years. Is it purely coincidence that since 2012 the firm is now in the hands of UK based Vodafone, a company that has previously been highlighted by Snowden as tapping the phones of millions of people worldwide.

In documents seen by Channel 4, in a period between 2008 and 2013, the company went by the code name ‘Gerontic.’ GCHQ had direct access to Cable and Wireless cables entering the UK in Cornwall, code named Nigella, intercepting the private communications of millions of users from all over the UK. GCHQ certainly planned, if not succeeded, to intercept trillions of gigabytes of data per second.

So cozy was the partnership they had a full time GCHQ working inside the company, and carried out testing on the behalf of GCHQ on equipment. Holding regular meetings between 2008 and 2010, and receiving millions of pounds in payment for its troubles. They also provided feedback and suggestion of the best way to gain information. Even useful hints and tips about how GCHQ ‘could’ tap into its network if required.

- Snowden Information Highlights GCHQ UK/World Spying, EuroTeckTalk.com, November 21, 2014.

3. Did you know that more people are being enslaved today that at any given time in history? All the specialists agree, although it is impossible to know the exact number of victims of this horrendous crime.

The Walk Free Foundation estimates there are nearly 36 million men, women and children held in modern-day slavery. The International Labour Organization (ILO) believes there are about 21 million people in forced labour -- a number echoed by the U.S. Department of State. But one of these figures is nearly half the other. Why is there such a wide discrepancy?

Part of the problem lies with the definition of slavery. Should human trafficking constitute forced labour alone, or should it include forced prostitution, forced marriage and debt bondage? But the more practical challenge is the lack of reliable data and a system to share it. It's often been said that if something can't be measured, then it doesn't exist, and this perhaps has never been truer than when applied to the fight against trafficking.

Today, modern-day slavery is an invisible crime. There are no chains, the injuries are psychological, and the victims walk among us, mostly unnoticed, trapped in dark and illicit networks operating in the shadows. The clandestine nature of the industry masks its true scale. The ILO believes modern-day slavery to be worth some US$150 billion a year -- three times the yearly profit of Apple, the world's most profitable company. This number, as with any number related to modern-day slavery, is disputed, with several non-government organisations (NGOs) calling it too low.

This constant clash over the figures highlights three things. The first is that we have only uncovered the tip of the iceberg. The second is that slavery is organized crime at its best. And the third is that our efforts to dismantle this scourge on humanity are totally disorganized, a drop in an ocean of corruption and greed.

The players are many. There are hundreds of NGOs globally engaged in the fight against human trafficking, mostly acting directly on the front lines. There are local, national and transnational law enforcement agencies working to take down human trafficking networks. And then there are governments and institutions actively involved in fighting the crime.

All these players hold key data -- but it is not shared, let alone harmonized. Information gathered from a rescue operation in India does not feed into a global slavery database. Instead it will be used by the NGO in question for advocacy purposes without being mapped, processed or connected to other similar pieces of information on a global scale.

As a result, we are left in the dark over the real size and scope of modern-day slavery. Some activists believe that current estimates are conservative, as they don't necessarily take into account those individuals born into slavery, or who were never registered at birth. They put the number of people in slavery at 100 million -- and say that is still an underestimation.

The inability to accurately measure the problem makes it easier to overlook and underfund. The numbers speak for themselves: according to Walk Free, OECD countries only contribute about US$120 million annually to combat modern slavery. The lack of accurate data and measures to track any progress in combating trafficking limits the international attention it is afforded. Ask any NGO, and they will tell you how often the lack of consistent data is used as an argument to halt the implementation of strategic initiatives and funding, especially at government level.

- If We Can't Measure Slavery, Does It Exist? HuffingtonPost.com, November 13, 2015.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)



















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