Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Surveilling in solitude

Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said “loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.”  The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) must feel immensely alone and poor, despite having monopolized attention for months across the globe due to leaked information about their methods of surveillance.

Surveilling in solitude

In its own country, in the state of California, there are a couple of state senators trying to prohibit by law that state utilities provide water or electricity to NSA’s premises. They called it the Fourth Amendment Protection Act.



Individuals or organizations that have something to do with the Agency also are feeling the pressure. For example, NSA’s expert in cryptography, Kevin Igoe, has been asked to quit his co-chair at the Crypto Forum Research Group (CFRG) - entity that collaborate with working groups that develop crypto standards - due to the suspicion that he might influence into the development of the standards in order to satisfy the unpopular agency’s interests. However, this request was rejected arguing that the group’s processes are transparent and that Mr. Igoe has no capacity to influence on the technical aspects of the projects.

The scope is also placed on RSA firm due to the $ 10 million deal with NSA to implement a random number generator that favored the Agency on one of their crypto tools, what led some experts to cancel its participation in the annual conference of the company. The first one was Mikko Hypponen from F-Secure, later followed by Chris Palmer and Adam Langley (Google), Chris Soghoian (American Civil Liberties Union), Marcia Hoffman (EFF), Alex Fowler (Mozilla), Josh Thomas (Atredis Partners) and Jeffrey Carr (Taia Global).

In addition, today we knew that NSA may spied on the Ministry of Public Security of Mexico by an operation called White Tamale, according to some documents leaked by Snowden and published by German newspaper Der Spiegel. Revelations like these led citizens and governments to turn their backs on the American Agency and increase its apparent loneliness.

But not all the news are about NSA. Citizens and businesses face many more dangers on the Internet. Employees themselves, for example, represent a recurring risk in the corporate world. In fact, according to a recent survey, senior managers are more likely to send sensitive information to the wrong person (58% versus 25% of employees overall) or to take files with them when they leave their job (twice as many as office workers).

Companies must also face threats from the "Internet of things". These are single-purpose devices such as routers, surveillance cameras or printers connected to the corporate network and, therefore, eligible to be remotely accessed. These devices are not usually patched so they could be used as an attack vector, for instance, by the newly discovered worm Zollard.

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