What is—and isn’t—known about the mysterious hackers leaking National Security Agency secrets
In 2013, a mysterious group of hackers that calls itself the Shadow Brokers stole a few disks full of National Security Agency secrets. Since last summer, they've been dumping these secrets on the internet. They have publicly embarrassed the NSA and damaged its intelligence-gathering capabilities, while at the same time have put sophisticated cyberweapons in the hands of anyone who wants them. They have exposed major vulnerabilities in Cisco routers, Microsoft Windows, and Linux mail servers, forcing those companies and their customers to scramble.
As devastating as the latest widespread ransomware attacks have been, it's a problem with a solution. If your copy of Windows is relatively current and you've kept it updated, your laptop is immune. It's only older unpatched systems on your computer that are vulnerable.
Patching is how the computer industry maintains security in the face of rampant internet insecurity.
The Department of Homeland Security is rumored to be considering extending the current travel ban on large electronics for Middle Eastern flights to European ones as well. The likely reaction of airlines will be to implement new traveler programs, effectively allowing wealthier and more frequent fliers to bring their computers with them. This will only exacerbate the divide between the haves and the have-nots—all without making us any safer.
In March, both the United States and the United Kingdom required that passengers from 10 Muslim countries give up their laptop computers and larger tablets, and put them in checked baggage.
We'll need new security standards when hackers go after the Internet of Things.
Ransomware isn't new, but it's increasingly popular and profitable.
The concept is simple: Your computer gets infected with a virus that encrypts your files until you pay a ransom. It's extortion taken to its networked extreme. The criminals provide step-by-step instructions on how to pay, sometimes even offering a help line for victims unsure how to buy bitcoin.
But letting people use the internet to register to vote is a start.
Technology can do a lot more to make our elections more secure and reliable, and to ensure that participation in the democratic process is available to all. There are three parts to this process.
First, the voter registration process can be improved. The whole process can be streamlined.
There's something going on inside the intelligence communities in at least two countries, and we have no idea what it is.
Consider these three data points. One: someone, probably a country's intelligence organization, is dumping massive amounts of cyberattack tools belonging to the NSA onto the Internet. Two: someone else, or maybe the same someone, is doing the same thing to the CIA.
Technological advances change the world. That's partly because of what they are, but even more because of the social changes they enable. New technologies upend power balances. They give groups new capabilities, increased effectiveness, and new defenses.
Weakness in digital communications systems allows security to be bypassed, leaving users at risk of being spied on.
Governments want to spy on their citizens for all sorts of reasons. Some countries do it to help solve crimes or to try to find "terrorists" before they act.
Others do it to find and arrest reporters or dissidents. Some only target individuals, others attempt to spy on everyone all the time.
Think about all of the websites you visit every day. Now imagine if the likes of Time Warner, AT&T and Verizon collected all of your browsing history and sold it on to the highest bidder. That's what will probably happen if Congress has its way.
This week, lawmakers voted to allow internet service providers to violate your privacy for their own profit.
Photo of Bruce Schneier by Per Ervland.
Schneier on Security is a personal website. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of IBM Resilient.