Sunday, January 29, 2023

Reality, Post Edward Snowden

Back in July 2013, Edward Snowden gave us some revelations about internet and mobile-phone surveillance. The extent of what Snowden chose to collect and reveal was incredibly astute. He didn’t just grab what he could from the NSA and run, but he carefully picked cases where it was evident the NSA was violating the constitution, or sneakily skirting around it’s laws. Many have labelled him a stereotypical left-wing dissident, but in reality he seems closer to an “originalist” – one who believes in the constitution as a sacred document that this nation must adhere to. I suspect Snowden would support Rand Paul, if he were still in the US today.

The staggering scale of activities revealed by Snowden has taken us this long to comprehend. What he did was download documentary-quality evidence on very dubious cases and show the public NSA’s private scandals. Recent revelations show we may be hitting the core of the issue now. Kaspersky, a computer security company, recently revealed malicious software sent by the NSA that lives on hard drives, even after reformatting disks. Kasperky engineers say this ability to persist on hard drives, “surpasses anything else” they had ever seen. This gave the NSA total control of a system, even through updates and formats. Which meant victims of the virus could never get rid of it. Compromised drives were made by almost every leading company in the disk-drive business: Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba, IBM, and more.

Another revelation came last month when it was revealed a joint NSA/GCHQ team was hacking into the computer network of Gemalto, the leading manufacturer of sim cards in the world. What does this mean? If an attempted breach worked, it would be able to spy on almost every use of 2G mobile networks in the world. For now, 3G and 4G networks are safer.

The capabilities of intelligence services have evolved so far, no electronic device is trustworthy anymore. Not only your phone calls and mobile devices are compromised, but hard drives harbor spies as well. Andy Grove, the former CEO of Intel, often said, “only the paranoid survive” in this field. Who knows to what extent intelligence agencies can watch and listen to us, but at least we now know that they can, and do. Credit for that discovery goes to Edward Snowden.

Billy Allocca
A student interested in world affairs and technology. I like eating great food, binge-watching "Parks and Recreation", and Seattle rain.


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