The Silver Linings Left By the NSA

June 9th, 2014 by · Leave a Comment

As our friendly global internet giants busy themselves with closing the barn door after the horse got out, the good news is that they’re closing the barn door. Over the weekend, the New York Times had an article detailing just how hard the industry has started working to keep out the spies, foreign and domestic. It’s just rather sad that it took so long and that we only believed it necessary when we realized the enemy could be us.

It’s not as if we didn’t have plenty of warning. We certainly saw when Google left China that espionage and hacking had started to overlap, and the US actually attacked the Iranian nuclear program via a worm. We’ve seen nationalist hackers from dozens of countries deface whatever offended them, whether state sponsored or not. We’ve seen huge data commercial data breaches at, well, just about everywhere now.  All the stuff that was an actual threat couldn’t get us all off the couch, but put it into the hands of the NSA to protect us and now it’s scary and dangerous.

Even the most sophisticated, global, talent-laden tech powerhouses on the planet were sending personal data around the world in the clear. I’m sure they would have gotten around to upgrading that eventually, right? Right…  So now they have, and that’s at least a silver lining to the Snowden/NSA affair.

But there’s another one, and it’s perhaps more important long term. Let me ask you as question. When they (tech giants, telecoms, government figures, Russia, China, the US, the EU, whoever) say the problem is fixed and all our data is safe (which they all will do eventually), will you believe them? Me neither.   People around the world won’t either, and it’s not just the USA they will be suspicious of.

That means that perhaps finally the internet as a whole has picked up the security ball and will keep running with it at last. You can’t stop everyone, but we were barely trying to stop anyone except the precocious teenager in the basement we used to think was the problem.  And we never did a very good job of that either.  Some did of course, but the industry as a whole has been way too porous for way too long.  Having it exposed this way, i.e. with relatively few actual victims or suffering, is perhaps better than the alternative could have been.

Data security has hit the big time now, and it’s been holding onto our attention a lot longer than I would have expected.  That’s what you get when an actual conspiracy theory gets uncovered I suppose.  Proof of big brother watching grabs the attention of modern society better than known, more mundane threats.

At least until next year’s surprise pushes it out of the spotlight…

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Categories: Internet Traffic · Security

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