The Snowden Effect


The leaking of government and military material including the U.S. diplomatic cables by Bradley Manning deeply concerned me in 2010 as I assumed it can destabilize the relationships between the US and the rest of the world. It turned out everyone knew what Americans embassies and diplomats are and nobody really got upset. The US started using their embassies and consulates as spy outposts after 9/11. So far… so good. Obama and Clinton managed to keep the damage low.

The NSA material leak by Eward Snowden and the revelations that followed it are much more valuable than the Manning leaks and a true wake up call for ALL Internet users, engineers and the entire IT industry.

Let’s recap where privacy has been compromised so far:

  • US based Web Communication Services and Social Networks via PRISM (although most serious Internet companies check FISA requests and won’t give out information if not absolutely necessary)
  • Intercontinental traffic via NSA Upstream, GCHQ Tempora and most probably some Chinese program we don’t know the name of (there are indications for that)
  • Your PC Operating System like Windows (backdoors are known since 1999 and it can be infected by state-sponsored Trojans)
  • Your mobile Operating System may it be Android, iOS or BlackBerry OS (NSA thinks iPhone users with location services are zombies)
  • SSL certificates that are used on the web i.e. for online banking
  • Any hardware including routers going down to the PC BIOS and even CPU Microcode can be backdoored (Hauwei became famous for this)

The entire leak finally makes people understand that sending unencrypted Emails is like putting a letter in a plastic foil and sending it via post. Unencrypted Instant Messaging might be compared to writing your private messages on postcards. It makes governments around the world finally realize their information security has been compromised a long time ago and that they need to find new and safer methods of communicating. We now know that we live in an era of CYBER WAR after the COLD WAR ended.

Not only the US government betrayed the Internet but in large portions it has been them along with China, Russia, Israel, France and the UK. Read a great call to action to all engineers who helped creating the Internet to take it back:

The process has begun and there will be nothing that can stop it:

Personally I started using OTR in Jabber and I support encrypted email projects like Mailpile:

Eward Snowden destroyed his own life but for a very good cause. I’m confident we, the users and creators will take back the Internet. The absolutely crazy level of surveillance is an unjustified overreaction to the terror threat!

It couldn’t avoid the Boston Marathon bombing attacks although the older Tsarnaev brother even had a public YouTube channel with radical videos on it. It’s the proof this global surveillance system doesn’t work. It didn’t work before 9/11 and it doesn’t work today because the real bad guys don’t touch any device with internet access. This is why Americans had such a hard time finding Osama Bin Laden. In the end it was not torture nor any snooped email that lead to him. It was a clever woman in the CIA who connected the dots applying classic detective work.