More good stuff on surveillance – 12-23-13

Here is my eighth list of good stuff on our surveillance society that I’d like talk about but only have time to recommend with a quick comment.

  • Who do you trust? and
  • Lost sale for $4B worth of fighter jets

12-23 – Schneier on Security – NSA Spying: Who Do You Believe? – The worst damage from the NSA spying fiasco is the corrosion of trust. Not only have we learned to be quite skeptical of anything government officials say about the fiasco, we need to parse words of every sentence spoken by tech companies. Will take al long time before we can trust the plain words of anyone involved. Mr. Schneier points out two examples, one of which I dived into. See following two articles.

12-20 – Reuters – Secret contract tied NSA and security industry pioneer – Reuters claims the NSA paid RSA $10M to use a compromised encryption program as the default in a widely used program that protects personal computers. The software has a known ‘back door’ that allows those who know about it to crack the encrypted data, thus reading everything on the hard drive.

12-22 – RSA – RSA Response to Media Claims Regarding NSA Relationship – RSA denies Reuters report. After reading denial, and remembering that public comments by government officials and other companies were lies even though technically true, I can see several ways that both the Rueters story and the RSA denial could be true. There is wiggle room in every phrase of the last paragraph of the RSA denial. The contract may have been a reward for installing the back door instead of a contract to do so; maybe the contact said nothing about the software but there was a wink and nod that it would happen; there may have been multiple other components to the contract other than the back door; the company may not have realized there was a back door until after the ink was dry on the contract; or perhaps it was a known back door instead of a potential back door.

The damage has been done. Just look at the question – Who do you believe: leaked NSA documents backed up by interviews with anonymous company staffers or an exquisitely precise denial? Merely having to address that question shows the severity of lost trust.

The lost trust is translating into dollars and jobs.

12-20 – Reuters – Saab wins Brazil jet deal after NSA spying sours Boeing bid– Boeing lost a $4.5 billion sale to Brazil. Saab got the contract for 36 new fighters instead. Brazil will go with Gripen NG fighters instead of F/A-18 Super Hornets.  The reason? The extensive NSA spying effort led the Brazilian government to conclude they cannot trust an American company. This is one of many articles I’ve seen that say American tech companies are losing sales. It is the first I’ve noticed that explicitly credits a specific lost deal to NSA spying. I’m confident there will be more.

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