The NSA is making us all less safe

Computers are everywhere. They are now something we put our whole bodies into—airplanes, cars—and something we put into our bodies—pacemakers, cochlear implants. They HAVE to be trustworthy. — Electronic Freedom Frontier Fellow Cory Doctorow

Cindy Cohn and Trevor Timm write: Cory’s right, of course. And that’s why the recent New York Times story on the NSA’s systematic effort to weaken and sabotage commercially available encryption used by individuals and businesses around the world is so important — and not just to people who care about political organizing, journalists or whistleblowers. Thanks to additional reporting, we now know it matters deeply to companies including Brazil’s Petrobras and Belgium’s Belgacom, who are concerned about protecting their infrastructure, negotiating strategies and trade secrets. But really, it matters to all of us.

We all live in an increasingly networked world. And one of the preconditions of that world has to be basic computer security — freedom to use strong technologies that are fully trustworthy.

Every casual Internet user, whether they know it or not, uses encryption daily. It’s the “s” in https and the little lock you see in your browser — signifying a secure connection — when you purchase something online, when you’re at your bank’s website or accessing your webmail, financial records, and medical records. Cryptography security is also essential in the computers in our cars, airplanes, houses and pockets.

By weakening encryption, the NSA allows others to more easily break it. By installing backdoors and other vulnerabilities in systems, the NSA exposes them to other malicious hackers—whether they are foreign governments or criminals. As security expert Bruce Schneier explained, “It’s sheer folly to believe that only the NSA can exploit the vulnerabilities they create.” [Continue reading…]

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1 thought on “The NSA is making us all less safe

  1. rackstraw

    Let me throw one more thing into the mix.

    A proposed treaty called “Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement”, if ratified by the US Senate, contains serious threats to privacy, perhaps greater than the current U.S. government antiprivacy regime.

    But first some background:

    TPP, a trade agreement negotiated in secret and not amendable by Congress (ie “fast track”), requires – among other things – every signer, including the US, to enact a regime of anti-piracy legislation far more radical than anything ever publicly proposed before. These provisions appear to have been written directly by the Security State with minor input from the entertainment industry.

    Remember that under the U.S. constitution, treaties are “the supreme law of the land”, and trump all domestic legislation; and then add in another radical provision of TPP called “Investor-State Arbitration”, which provides for investors to recover hypothetical “future profits” up to any amount, as damages from any government that by any act reduces their profits, all in a Kangaroo court of privately appointed arbitrators.

    Hypocritical assurances that environmental, labor and privacy rights, etc., will be respected are comical in light of recent history, and the manifest failure of the treaty to actually say any such thing, or to provide accountability or means of redress.

    Another laughable assurance is that these tribunals will be public – all the investors have to do is cry “trade secrets” to close each and every session.

    Now as regards privacy (which the security agencies spell p-i-r-a-c-y):

    Under the guise of combatting piracy, by an unelected supranational organization and a treaty which cannot be changed without the consent of all members; and run by, and for, the benefit of the Masters of the Earth, with no transparency whatever; tell me one human right that can’t be undone by such an organization?

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