Friday, January 17, 2014

War, privacy & algorithms

What is cyber warfare about? What does it implies for you? With these two simple questions, microphone in hand, we are introduced to some of the attendees at the Campus Party 4, held in Mexico. Few places are so propitious for a questionnaire like this. Like it or not, 2500 years later, we are far from meeting the judgment of the author of The Art of War, Sun-Tzu: "The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting."

Now, how many covers has the enemy we have to subdue? We understand that those kids of digital balaclavas are a quite big part of the bad boys, but today the eye is also placed on the control that public and private entities may have over our lives. Subduing such monitoring without fighting is the very basis of blackphone, a smartphone that is offered as "your usual Android" with all its applications and so on, but without a trace of who you are. Total privacy.

However, hundred percent privacy, if not impossible, it is highly difficult to achieve. Specialist about this subject, Ricardo Pérez, explains in his latest post how we leave a digital footprint even if we decide to surf the web under browsers’ anonymous mode: "What if I told you that anonymous browsing does not really work? What if I told you that your fingerprint will always reveal your identity? One moment, what fingerprint? What's that?"

If there is any information that we consider as personal, private and confidential would be the one hold in our bank cards. Maybe we would not consider it that way if we think about some of the lessons we can extract from the recent Target’s case. For instance, there are demands of small industry about the security of payment cards which have a clear turning point: a class action from 2009. They could claim lack of resources to have adopted better practices. But not lack of knowledge.

If there is something which seems to have more than enough spare resources, that is Google. This week we knew about the purchase of Nest for over 3,000 million euros, and there is already news of a new acquisition. In this case it is Impermium, an operation that seeks to strengthen Mountain View position on issues like spam and abuse of service. Now if we talk about money and resources today it is inevitable to talk about bitcoins. Sometimes it may be unlikely that a virtual currency, which is not regulated by any financial institution, reaches certain values. And it is logical to think that way. The value is not just monetary exchange, but the algorithms themselves that are behind the generation of these currencies as more and more studies are proving.


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