Ed Felten on the NSA Disclosures
Ed Felten has an excellent essay on the damage caused by the NSA secretly breaking the security of Internet systems:
In security, the worst case—the thing you most want to avoid—is thinking you are secure when you’re not. And that’s exactly what the NSA seems to be trying to perpetuate.
Suppose you’re driving a car that has no brakes. If you know you have no brakes, then you can drive very slowly, or just get out and walk. What is deadly is thinking you have the ability to stop, until you stomp on the brake pedal and nothing happens. It’s the same way with security: if you know your communications aren’t secure, you can be careful about what you say; but if you think mistakenly that you’re safe, you’re sure to get in trouble.
So the problem is not (only) that we’re unsafe. It’s that “the N.S.A. wants to keep it that way.” The NSA wants to make sure we remain vulnerable.