If you are like me you completely discount official protests as posturing. In this age of suspicion of all politicians there is not much to be read into the President of Brazil, angry about spying, canceling a state visit to the United States, or the governments of Germany, Spain and France summoning their respective US Ambassadors.
What I look for are reactions from the security industry, the people who live and breathe security. Among those reactions are shock, betrayal, and yes, rage. It is not the rage of a bar fight, it is the slow steady boil of rage that comes from comprehension and careful consideration.
For some reason Congress and General Alexander, speaking for the NSA, apparently believe that capturing the emails, phone records, and conversations of “non US persons” is completely justified, as if “non-US persons” where somehow guilty by default. The comments on reddit and Ycombinator are getting more and more heated.
Mikko Hyponnin is one of most respected security researchers in the world. He hails from Finland, a rapidly rising star in the press freedom and privacy protection firmament. Other than my own talk at the Trusted Computing Conference in Orlando and two keynotes at the respective Wisconsin and Michigan Cybersecurity Summits, Mikko’s is the first to address the dangers of the NSA’s all reaching spying activity.
Mikko’s anger is palpable, if restrained. His message that George Orwell was an optimist strikes a chord with the audience at TEDx Brussels. “We are right now seeing much larger scale tracking of individual citizens than he could have ever imagined.” Wholesale blanket surveillance on everyone is Mikko’s summing up of what he sees.
The Wall Street Journal points out that one aspect of blow back from NSA spying is that AT&T’s plans to acquire European Vodafone may be thwarted because: “Europe’s anger over the NSA’s collection of electronic communications has reduced the likelihood a European deal could happen anytime soon.”
The theme of my address to the Trusted Computing Conference was that the IT security industry will respond to this new threat — mass collection of data — the same way it responded to the rise of cyber crime and cyber espionage. New tools, technologies, and companies will be created to thwart surveillance. This already has begun.
The New York Times reports that “…as details of the scope of spying emerge, frustration has turned to outrage, and cooperation has turned to war.” Google has begun a massive effort to encrypt all of their data. Twitter is encrypting their private messaging tool.
Referring to the latest reports that the NSA has attacked the data centers of Yahoo! and Google to intercept all communications going into them, Hamish McKenzie at Pando Daily to write:
“The MUSCULAR revelation is so far the NSA’s biggest insult to Silicon Valley.” In his heated column he concludes: “Because this debate, ultimately, is about liberty. Is the surveillance worth it? Liberty needs a lobbyist, and that lobbyist has to be Silicon Valley.”
Sadly, Silicon Valley has become associated with the Surveillance State. There are too many Snowden documents that reference Silicon Valley tech giants. The NSA has done irreparable harm to trust: trust of the US government, trust of its intelligence agencies, trust of its State Department. This erosion of trust has slopped onto Cisco, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Google, and Apple.
Anger has been percolating all summer. Only now is rage beginning to be voiced. The next stage will be action as technology is created, most probably outside the US, to prevent surveillance and reestablish trust in communications, commerce, and relationships.