Archive for the 'Government' Category

Jul 17 2014

Root my ride

Published by under Government,Hacking,Risk

If you’ve never watched the anime Ghost in the Shell(GITS) and you’re in security, you’re doing yourself a great disfavor.  If nothing else, watch the Stand Alone Complex series as a primer of what we might expect from Anonymous in the future.  I know my friend Josh Corman tries to sit down to watch it every year or two in order to refresh his memory and help him understand what might be coming down the pipeline from chaotic actors.  And the authors of the manga/anime have a impressive understanding of what the future of hacking might bring in the long term.  Probably a better idea than the FBI does at least.

Earlier this week the Guardian got a copy of an unclassified document the FBI had written up exploring the future of driverless vehicles and the dangers they pose to the future. Their big revelation is that driverless cars could let hackers do things they couldn’t do while driving a normal cars.  In other words, since they wouldn’t have to actually be driving they could hack while the car drove itself.  Which ignores the fact that it’s already pretty easy to get someone else to drive a car for you, presumably much better than a driverless car will be able to do for many years.  If I’m going to commit a crime, I’d rather have someone I can trust at the wheel, rather than take my chances that the police might have a back door (pun intended) into my car’s operating system.

The Guardian story also hints that the FBI is concerned about driverless cars being hacked to be used as weapons.  I have to admit that this is a concern; hacking a target’s car to accelerate at the wrong time or muck with the car’s GPS so that it thinks the road goes straight when it should follow the curve of the cliff wouldn’t be a massive logical stretch.  Also doing the same to use a car to plow into a crowd or run over an individual is a possibility.  However, both of these are things an unskilled operator could do with a real car by cutting the brake lines or driving the car themselves, then running from the scene of the crime.

I think it’ll be much more interesting when driverless cars start becoming common place and young hackers decide they don’t like the feature set and/or controls that are present in the car.  It’s a logical extension to think that the same people who root phones and routers and televisions will eventually figure out how to re-image a car so that it has the software they want, to give the vehicle the capabilities they want.  I know that the Ford Focus has a whole community built around customizing the software in the vehicle, so why will it be any different for driverless cars in the future.

The difference with the driverless car will be that I could strip out many if not all of the safety protocols that will be in place, as well as the limiters on the engine and braking systems.  I want to pull off a robbery and use a driverless car for the get away?  Okay, ignore all stoplights, step on the gas and don’t break for anything.  You’d probably be able to rely on the safety features of other driverless cars to avoid you and you wouldn’t have to worry about the police issuing a kill signal to your car once they’ve read your license plate and other identifying codes.  I’d still rather have an old fashioned car with an actual driver, but at some point those might be hard to get and using one would cause suspicion in and of itself.

On the point of a kill signal, I strongly believe this will be a requirement for driverless cars in the future.  I’m actually surprised a law enforcement kill switch hasn’t already been legislated by the US government, though maybe they’re waiting to see how the public accepts smart phone kill signals first.  Around the same time as the kill switch is being made mandatory, I expect to see laws passed to make rooting your car illegal.  Which, of course, means only criminals will root their cars.  Well, them and the thousands of gear heads who also like to hack the software and won’t know or care about the law.

The FBI hasn’t even scratched the surface of what they should be concerned with about driverless cars.  Back to my initial point about Ghost in the Shell: think about what someone could do if they hacked into the kill switch system that’s going to be required by law.   Want to cause massive chaos?  Shut down every car in Las Angeles or Tokyo.  Make the cars accelerate and shut down the breaks.  Or simply change the maps the car’s GPS is using.  There are a lot of these little chaos producing tricks used through out the GITS series, plus even more that could be adapted easily to the real world.

Many of these things will never happen.  The laws will almost definitely be passed and you’ll have a kill switch in your new driverless car, but there’s little chance we’ll ever see a hack of the system on a massive scale.  On the other hand, given the insecurity we’re just starting to identify in medical devices, the power grid and home networks, I’m not sure that any network that supports driverless cars will be much better secured. Which will make for a very interesting future.

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Jul 09 2014

Civil disobedience against surveillance

Published by under Government,Privacy,Video

Last year I moved to the UK and spend a considerable amount of time in London.  Therefore I’m often on 10, 12, 16 or more cameras at any one time.  I dislike it intensely, but it was something I knew I’d have to be dealing with when I moved.  There’s no evidence that cameras prevent any serious crimes or even less serious ones, and there’s little evidence they’re very useful in catching perpetrators after the fact.  They do, however, cause a lot of innocent people to modify their behaviors slightly since they know they’re on camera.  It’s a subtle societal shift that most people will never even notice.

But one group has noticed and they’re very actively doing something about it.  It’s an anti-surveillance group called Camover that started in Germany and is working its way onto the global scene.  I’d never heard of them before yesterday, when Salon wrote a story highlighting their growth into the US.  I’m of mixed feelings about this group and their growth; part of me wants to work to change society through lawful means, while another part wants to join in on pulling down the cameras and destroying them where ever they intrude on my ever disappearing privacy.  No, I’m not of an anarchist bent at all, am I?

The part that bothers me is that while the members of this group probably see much of what they’re doing as a bit of relatively harmless vandalism, law enforcement probably paints them as felons and terrorists.  Yes, terrorists.  They’ll be painted as destroying the cameras that protect our freedoms and help catch terrorist.  And when they’re caught, they’ll be treated as if they are terrorists, with all the extra-legal, non-judicial treatment that surrounds that designation.  It won’t be a fun adventure for them, that much is sure.

I see a need for anarchists like this to rise up and show us that surveillance can be fought.  I think we need more people to be aware of exactly how our society is being rapidly turned into a state where our every move is watched and judged.  But I don’t think it’s worth risking disappearing into a detention center somewhere, with all of your rights suspended because an agent somewhere decided to label you as a terrorist.

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Jul 06 2014

The dominoes of Internet Balkanization are falling

Published by under Cloud,Government,Hacking,Privacy,Risk

We knew it was coming; it was inevitable.  The events put in motion last June played right into the hands of the people who wanted to cement their control, giving them every excuse to seize the power and claim they were doing it in defense of their people and their nation.  Some might even say it was always destined to happen, it was just a matter of how soon and how completely.  What am I talking about?  The Balkanization of the Internet.  It’s happening now and with Russia entering the competition to see who can control the largest chunk most completely, it’s only a matter of time before others follow the lead and make the same changes within their own country.

Let’s make no mistakes here, there have been countries and governments that have wanted to circumscribe their boundaries in the virtual domain and create an area where they control the content, they control what the people can and can’t see and they have the ability to see everything everyone is looking at as long as the Internet has been in existence.  But prior to the last year, very few countries had either the political impulse or the technical means to filter what came into and out of their countries except China and a few countries in the Middle East.  China had this power because they’d recognized early on the threat the Internet posed to them and the countries in the Middle East have comparatively limited Internet access to begin with, so filtering and controlling their access is a relatively easy exercise.  In both cases though, the efforts have been coarse with plentiful ways to circumvent them, including the use of Tor.  Though it now looks like Tor was itself has long been subverted by the US government to spy as well.

But then Edward Snowden came forth with a huge cache of documents from inside the NSA.  And it turned out all the things that the US had long been shaking its finger at other governments about, things that the US considered to be immoral and foreign to individual freedoms, were the exact things that the NSA had been doing all along.  Sure, it was only foreigners.  Oh, and only ‘people of interest’.  And people with connections to people of interest.  Four or five degrees of connection that is.  And foreign leaders.  And … the list goes on.  Basically, the logical justification was that anyone could be a terrorist, so rather than taking a chance that someone might slip through the cracks, everyone had become a suspect and their traffic on the Internet was to be collected, categorized and collated for future reference, just in case.  Any illusion of moral superiority, or personal freedom from monitoring was blown to shreds. American politicians carefully constructed arguments to assume high ground and tell other countries what they should and should not do torn down and America suddenly became the bad guys of the Internet.  Not that everyone who knew anything about the Internet hadn’t already suspected this had always been going on and the that the US is far from the only country performing this sort of monitoring of the world.  Every government is monitoring their people to one degree or another, the USA and the NSA were simply the ones who got their hands caught in the cookie jar.

The cries to stop data from being sent to the USA have been rising and falling since June and Mr. Snowden’s revelations.  At first they were strident, chaotic and impassioned.  And unreasonable.  But as time went by, people started giving it more thought and many realized that stopping data on the Internet from being exfiltrated to the USA in the Internet’s current form was near unto impossible.  One of the most basic routing protocols of the Web make it nearly impossible to determine ahead of time where a packet is going to go to get to it’s destination; traffic sometimes circumnavigates the globe in order to get to a destination a couple hundred miles away.  That didn’t stop Brazil from demanding that all traffic in their country stay on servers in their country, though they quickly realized that this was an impossible demand.  Governments and corporations across the European Union have been searching for way to ensure that data in Europe stays in Europe, though the European Data Protective Directives have been hard pressed to keep up with the changing situation.

And now Russia has passed a law through both houses of their Parliament that would require companies serving traffic within Russia to stay in Russia and be logged for at least six months by September of 2016.   They’re also putting pressure on Twitter and others to limit and block content concerning actions in the Ukraine, attempting to stop any voice of dissent from being heard inside Russia.  For most companies doing business, this won’t be an easy law to comply with, either from a technical viewpoint or from an ethical one.  The infrastructure needed to retain six months of data in country is no small endeavor; Yandex, a popular search engine in Russia says that it will take more than two years to build the data centers required to fulfill the mandates of the law.  Then there’s the ethical part of the equation: who and how will these logs be accessed by the Russian government?  Will a court order be necessary or will the FSB be able to simply knock at a company’s door and ask for everything.  Given the cost of building an infrastructure within Russian borders (and the people to support it, an additional vulnerability) and the ethical questions of the law, how does this change the equation of doing business in Russia for companies on the Internet?  Is it possible to still do business in Russia, is the business potential too great to pull out now or do companies serve their traffic from outside Russia and hope they don’t get blocked by the Great Firewall of Russia, which is the next obvious step in this evolution?

Where Brazil had to bow to the pressure of international politics and didn’t have the business potential to force Internet companies to allocate servers within it’s borders, Russia does.  The ruling affluent population of Russia has money to burn; many of them make the US ’1%’ look poor.  There are enough start ups and hungry corporations in Russia who are more than willing to take a chunk of what’s now being served by Twitter, Google, Facebook and all the other American mega-corporations of the Internet.  And if international pressure concerning what’s happening in the Ukraine doesn’t even make Russia blink, there’s nothing that the international community can do about Internet Balkanization.

Once Russia has proven that the Balkanization of the Internet is a possibility and even a logical future for the Internet, it won’t take long for other countries to follow.  Smaller countries will follow quickly, the EU will create laws requiring many of the same features that Russia’s laws do and eventually even the US will require companies within it’s borders to retain information, where they will have easy access it.   The price to companies ‘in the Cloud’ will sky rocket as the Cloud itself has to be instantiated within individual regions and the economy of scale it currently enjoys is brought down by the required fracturing.  And eventually much of the innovation and money created by the great social experiment of the Internet will grind to a halt as only the largest companies have the resources needed to be available on a global scale.

 

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Mar 18 2014

NSP Microcast – RSAC2014 – Utimaco

I spent a few minutes with the CEO of Utimaco, Malte Pollman at RSAC this year.  Malte explains why Hardware Security Modules are important to the web of trust of the Internet, why lawful interception is a not in conflict with that web of trust.  As with all my interviews at RSAC, I asked Malte how the last year’s worth of spying revelations have affected his company and him personally.  Also, I have a problem pronouncing the company name, which for the record is you-tee-make-oh.

NSPMicrocast-RSAC2014-Utimaco

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Mar 15 2014

NSP Microcast – BSidesSF with Trey Ford

I caught Trey Ford right after his talk at the BSides Conference in San Francisco last month to talk about the efforts he’s making on behalf of Rapid7 and the security community.  It may be a sign that we’re a maturing industry when we’ve got folks like Trey traveling to Washington, DC in order to talk to lawmakers about how what they’re doing affects our lives.  And, as with all my interviews this year, I ask Trey how revelations about our government has affected his personal as well as professional life.  Check out his site at Password123.org.

NSPMicrocast – BSidesSF – Trey Ford

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Mar 07 2014

You have been identified as a latent criminal!

This afternoon, while I ate lunch, I watched a new-to-me anime called Pscho-Pass.  The TL:DR summary of the show is a future where everyone is chipped and constantly monitored.  If their Criminal Coefficient becomes to high, they are arrested for the good of society.  It doesn’t matter whether they’ve commited a crime or not, if the potential that they will commit a crime exceeds the threshold set by the computer, they’re arrested, or killed if they resist arrest. Like many anime, it sounds like a dystopian future that could never happen.  Except when I got back to my desk, I saw Bruce Schneier’s post, Surveillance by Algorithm.  And once again what I thought was an impossible dystopian future seems like a probable dystopian present.  

As Bruce points out, we already have Google and Amazon suggesting search results and purchases based on our prior behaviours online.  With every search I make online, they build up a more detailed and accurate profile of what I like, what I’ll buy and, by extension, what sort of person I am.  They aren’t using people to do this, there’s an extensive and thoroughly thought out algorithm that measures my every action to create a statistically accurate profile of my likes and dislikes in order to offer up what I might like to buy next based on their experience of what I’ve purchased in the past.  Or there would be if I didn’t purposefully share and account with my wife in order to confuse the profiling software Amazon uses.

Google is a lot harder to fool and they have access to a lot more of the data that reveals the true nature of who I am, what I’ve done and what I’m planning to do.  They have every personal email, my calendar, my searches, in fact, about 90% of what I do online is either directly through Google or indexed by Google in some way or shape.  Even my own family and friends probably don’t have as accurate an indicator of who I really am behind the mask as Google does, if they choose to create a psychological profile of me.  You can cloud the judgement of people, since they’re applying their own filters that interfere with a valid assessment of others, but a well written computer algorithm takes the biases of numerous coders and tries to even them out to create an evaluation that’s closer to reality than that of most people.

It wouldn’t take much for a government, the US, the UK or any other government, to start pushing to have an algorithm that evaluates the mental health and criminal index of every user on the planet and alerts the authorities when something bad is being planned.  Another point Bruce makes is that this isn’t considered ‘collection’ by the NSA, since they wouldn’t necessarilly have any of the data until an alert had been raised and a human began to review the data.  It would begin as something seemingly innoccuous, probably similar to the logical fallacies that governments already use to create ‘protection mechanisms’: “We just want to catch the peodophiles and terrorists; if you’re not a peodophile or terrorist, you have nothing to fear.”  After all, these are the exact phrases that have been used numerous times to create any number of organizations and mechanisms, including the TSA and the NSA itself.  And they’re all that much more powerful because there is a strong core of truth to them.

But what they don’t address is a few of the fatal flaws to any such system based on a behavioural algorithm.  First of all, inclination, or even intent, doesn’t equal action.  Our society has long ago established that the thought of doing something isn’t the same as doing the action, whether it’s well-intentioned or malign.  If I mean to call my mother back in the US every Sunday, the thought doesn’t count unless I actually follow through and do so.  And if I want to run over a cyclist who’s slowing down traffic, it really doesn’t matter unless I nudge the steering wheel to the left and hit them.  Intent to commit a crime is not the same as the crime itself, until I start taking the steps necessary to perform the crime, such as purchasing explosives or writing a plan to blow something up.  If we were ever to start allowing the use of algoritms to denote who ‘s a potential criminal and treat them as such before they’ve commited a crime, we’ll have lost something essential to the human condition.

A second problem is that the algorithms are going to be created by people.  People who are fallable and biased.  Even if the individual biases are compensated for, the biases of the cultures are going to be evident in any tool that’s used to detect thought crimes.  This might not seem like much of a problem if you’re an American who agrees with the mainstream American values, but what if you’re not?  What if you’re GLBT?  What if you have an open relationship?  Or like pain?  What if there’s some aspect of your life that falls outside what is considered acceptable by the mainstream of our society?  Almost everyone has some aspect of their life they keep private because it doesn’t meet with societal norms on some level.  It’s a natural part of being human and fallable.  Additionally, actions and thoughts that are perfectly innocuous in the US can become serious crimes if you travel to the Middle East, Asia or Africa and the other way as well.  Back to the issue of sexual orientation, we only have to look at the recent Olympics and how several laws were passed in Russia to make non-heterosexual orientation a crime.  We have numerous examples of laws that have passed in the US only later to be thought to be unfair by more modern standards, with Prohibition being one of the most prominent examples.  Using computer algorithms to uncover people’s hidden inclinations would have a disastrous effect on both individuals and society as a whole.

Finally, there’s the twin ideas of false positives and false negatives.  If you’ve ever run an IDS, WAF or any other type of detection and blocking mechanism, you’re intimately familiar with the concepts.  A false positive is an alert that erroneously tags something as being malicious when it’s not.  It might be that a coder used a string that you’ve written into your detection algorithms and it’s caught by your IDS as an attack.  Or it might be a horror writer looking up some horrible technique that the bad guy in his latest novel is going to use to kill his victims.  In either case, it’s relatively easy to identify a false positive, though a false positive by the a behavioural algorithm has the potential to ruin a persons life before everything is said and done. 

Much more pernicous are false negatives.  This is when your detection mechanism has failed to catch an indicator and therefore not alerted you.  It’s much harder to find and understand false negatives because you don’t know if you’re failing to detect a legitimate attack or if there are simply no malicous attacks to catch.  It’s hard enough when dealing with network traffic to understand and detect false negatives, but when you’re dealing with people who are consciously trying to avoid displaying any of the triggers that would raise alerts, false negatives become much harder to detect and the consequences become much greater.  A large part of spycraft is to avoid any behaviour that will alert other spies to what you are; the same ideas apply to terrorists or criminals of any stripe who have a certain level of intelligence.  The most successful criminals are the ones who make every attempt to blend into society and appear to be just like every other successful businessman around them.  The consequences of believing your computer algorithms have identified every potential terrorist are that you stop looking for the people that might be off the grid for whatever reasons.  You learn to rely to heavily on the algorithm to the exclusion of everything else, a consequence we’ve already seen.

So much of what goes on society is a pendulum that swings back and forth as we adjust to the changes in our reality.  Currently, we have a massive change in technologies that allow for surveillance that far exceeds anything that’s ever been available in the past.  The thought that it might swing to the point of having chips in every persons head that tells the authorities when we start thinking thoughts that are a little too nasty is a far fetched scenario, I’ll admit.  But the thought that the NSA might have a secret data center in the desert that runs a complex algorithm on every packet and phone call that is made in the US and the world to detect potential terrorists or criminal isn’t.  However well intentioned the idea might be, the failings of the technology, the failings of the people implementing the technology and the impacts of this technology on basic human rights and freedoms are something that not only should be considered, they’re all issues that are facing us right now and must be discussed.  I, for one, don’t want to live in a world of “thought police” and “Minority Report“, but that is where this slippery slope leads.  Rather than our Oracle being a group of psychics, it might be a computer program written by … wait for it … Oracle.  And if you’ve ever used Oracle software, that should scare you as much as anything else I’ve written.

 

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Feb 10 2014

The Day We Fight Back

Published by under Government,Privacy

I’m of mixed feelings about The Day We Fight Back.  I think it’s a necessary movement, I think our governments have lost their way and are becoming more facist every day.  I blieve we need to reign in what our law enforcement agencies can and should do.  But I have no illusions that a banner on a website and a series of blog posts are going to do anything to change it.  But we have to start somewhere.  I guess I’m just becoming (more) cynical as I grow older.  

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Jan 23 2014

But first, BSides…

I’m looking forward to this year’s pilgrimage to San Francisco.  Not that it’s ever been a pilgrimage before, since I lived 60 miles away, but now that I live near London, it’s a much longer trip.  I’ll be arriving in San Francisco a few days early for a couple of reasons.  The first is to visit my family and friends in the Bay Area, who I haven’t seen since I moved away.  The second reason is to attend BSides SF on Sunday and Monday.  Which, in many ways, is also a visit to friends I haven’t seen since moving.

Let’s assume for a second you’ve never attended a BSides event.  It’s community led, it’s free, and each one is unique.  BSides SF is being held in the DNA Lounge, which has been a fixture in San Francisco for as long as I can remember.  Think of a funky, grungy, dark underground bar.  Then add in a couple of hundred hackers, security devotees and a few people who happened to find their way into the event with little or no idea of what’s going on.  The talks range from first time speakers (something that’s strongly encouraged) to some of the best speakers in the realm who want to step outside the confines of a business conference to talk about things that aren’t quite politically correct.  Finally, add in a healthy dose of chaos and an even healthier sprinkling of community and you have some idea of what BSides is.  But unless you actually attend, my description is never going to be adequate to capture the true energy of the event.

I make no bones about it, for me conferences are about meeting the people there, not about the talks.  However, the talks at BSides tend to take a higher priority than they do elsewhere.  While some of the talks are a bit rougher than those at conferences you pay for, the fact that people are speaking with unfiltered passion more than makes up for it.  And a number of the talks simply couldn’t be given at a corporate event.  I’m looking forward to Morgan Marquis-Boire’s (aka @headhntr) talk, even though he hasn’t publicly stated what it’ll be about yet.  Morgan has worked on uncovering a number of government surveillance schemes around the globe, so anything he’s chosen to talk about has to be interesting.  Along the same lines, Christopher Soghoian’s talk about living in a post-Snowden world is a must for me, even though I often find myself disagreeing with with what Chris says publicly.  What can I say, privacy has always been a favorite topic of mine and has never been something that’s more in need of open, public discussion.

I’m also looking forward to seeing three of my friends on one panel, Jack Daniel, Wendy Nather and Javvad Malik discussing how to talk to an analyst, or rather how not to talk to an analyst.  Javvad gave an excellent PK (20 slides, 20 second per slide) talk at RSA EU covering all the horrible slides he sees again and again as an analyst.  The trio will be entertaining at the least, and I might even learn a little about talking to analysts myself.  Ping Yan’s talk on using intelligence looks interesting and has potential for my day job, so I’m going to try to find a seat for that talk as well.  And I have to support my podcast co-host Zach Lanier, even though I usually understand about half of what he’s presenting on any given occasion.

There are other interesting talks, if I can sit through the talks I’ve already mentioned, it’ll probably be the most I’ve seen at one conference in a long time.  I have a pretty short attention (Squirrel!) span, and I’d rather be talking with the presenters than simply listening to them passively.   I’ll have a mic and my Zoom H4, so it’s entirely possible I’ll be able to get a few of them to spend a few minutes doing exactly that.  Which means I can share the conversations with you as well.

 

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Jan 19 2014

Prepping for RSA

It’s funny.  There are two distinctive groups I get invites to meet with at the RSA conference: the early invites from companies that are hungry for coverage, any coverage, and the last minute invites from companies who didn’t get as many interviews as they’d like and are looking to fill one or two last interviews from second (or third [or fourth]) tier ‘press’ such as myself.  There are a few invites that come somewhere in the middle, but they stil tend to gravitate towards one of those two ends of the spectrum.  And it makes setting up a schedule for RSA extremely hard sometimes, since I tend to want to leave one or two slots open to make time for the last minute invites I find intesting.

Speaking of interesting, I think the most interesting story of the conference will be the boycott by a few speakers and the reasons behind it.  I wonder how many of the company representatives I speak with are even going to be aware of the fact that a boycott is happening and if it will affect them in any way.  As I’ve said before, I’m not really in support of the boycott, but I understand the reasons a number of professionals are supporting it and I think they have every right to.  So asking other attendees and sponsors how they think the boycott has affected them should get some interesting responses.

In any case, now it’s time to start responding to the invitations to meet I’ve already gotten and try to figure out how I can fit everything in along side my professional duties.  Many years I’ve created microcasts throughout the conference, something that’s incredibly hard to find the time and energy to do.  Last year I mostly abandoned them, but I think I’m going to try to do microcasts again.  But I reserve the right to drop them if time doesn’t allow for it.

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Dec 08 2013

Will limits work?

Published by under Government,Privacy

A number of tech giants are petitioning the US federal government to put limits on the surveillance powers of agencies such as the NSA.  Specifically, there are eight organizations, led by Microsoft and Google who are stating that the governmental spying machines are putting them in a bad business position by eroding the trust that the public and other companies have in the systems created by the monitoring efforts.  Here in Europe this is definitey true and as each new revelation of phone tapping and metadata collection is revealed, it only becomes harder and harder for businesses and users to trust.  But the real question is, even if the laws are changed to make the wholesale collection of data harder, will it put a check on the organizations who see it as their mandate to protect the public from ‘terrorists’ no matter what the cost?

I could go on for pages about the problems with the current attitudes of law enforcement, about the problems with justifying all this spying by invoking the specter of terrorism, about the potential for abuse, about the cost in capital and human time to use this data, and the lack of effectiveness of wholesale data collection.  And I want to, but it wouldn’t do much good.  Most people have already made up their minds on the subject, our agencies are addicted to the power this surveillance gives them, and most people are ignorant as to the danger the wholesale capture of data can create.  If the last point were even slightly wrong, we wouldn’t be giving companies our data by the bucketload in order to share pictures of our cats and kids.

I believe in due process, the rule of law and constraints on government power. And I think we’re at a point in history where most of that has been thrown out the window, using a witch hunt as an excuse.  Changing the laws won’t make it any better; either the laws will be written by the very agencies we’re trying to limit, with plenty of loopholes designed to let them keep doing what they’re doing, or the laws will be ignored and circumvented until we have a new leak that sets off another round of … the same exact thing.  I’m pretty pessimistic on the subject.

Can changes in law lead to a reform of the system?  Yes, they can, but the question is, will they?  In the short term, I think it’s impossible for us to have any meaningful change, in part because the system in the US is too drunk on it’s own power.  In the long term, if the public will is strong, then we might see changes.  We’ve had McCarthy and Hoover and Nixon, we’ve made it through dark times before, but it took a long time to recover from each of these people.  The world will survive another round of abused power, but the question is where will we end up as an worldwide population?  Probably with less liberties forever.

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