Bruce Schneier: NSA spying is making us less safe

Bruce Schneier, a cryptographer and author on security topics, is now helping The Guardian sift through documents leaked by Edward Snowden. He talked to MIT Technology Review about what he is learning.

MIT Technology Review: Taken together, what do all of the Snowden documents leaked thus far reveal that we didn’t know already?

Bruce Schneier: Those of us in the security community who watch the NSA had made assumptions along the lines of what Snowden revealed. But there was scant evidence and no proof. What these leaks reveal is how robust NSA surveillance is, how pervasive it is, and to what degree the NSA has commandeered the entire Internet and turned it into a surveillance platform.

We are seeing the NSA collecting data from all of the cloud providers we use: Google and Facebook and Apple and Yahoo, etc. We see the NSA in partnerships with all the major telcos in the U.S., and many others around the world, to collect data on the backbone. We see the NSA deliberately subverting cryptography, through secret agreements with vendors, to make security systems less effective. The scope and scale are enormous.

The only analogy I can give is that it’s like death. We all know how the story ends. But seeing the actual details, and seeing the actual programs, is very different than knowing it theoretically.

The NSA mission is national security. How is the snooping really affecting the average person?

The NSA’s actions are making us all less safe. They’re not just spying on the bad guys, they’re deliberately weakening Internet security for everyone—including the good guys. It’s sheer folly to believe that only the NSA can exploit the vulnerabilities they create. Additionally, by eavesdropping on all Americans, they’re building the technical infrastructure for a police state.

We’re not there yet, but already we’ve learned that both the DEA and the IRS use NSA surveillance data in prosecutions and then lie about it in court. Power without accountability or oversight is dangerous to society at a very fundamental level. [Continue reading…]

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