Essays in the Category "National Security Policy"
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The Real Threat from China Isn't "Spy Trains"
The trade war with China has reached a new industry: subway cars. Congress is considering legislation that would prevent the world’s largest train maker, the Chinese-owned CRRC Corporation, from competing on new contracts in the United States.
Part of the reasoning behind this legislation is economic, and stems from worries about Chinese industries undercutting the competition and dominating key global industries. But another part involves fears about national security. News articles talk about “spy trains,” and the possibility that the train cars might surreptitiously monitor their passengers’ faces, movements, conversations or phone calls…
Why the NSA Makes Us More Vulnerable to Cyberattacks
The Lessons of WannaCry
There is plenty of blame to go around for the WannaCry ransomware that spread throughout the Internet earlier this month, disrupting work at hospitals, factories, businesses, and universities. First, there are the writers of the malicious software, which blocks victims’ access to their computers until they pay a fee. Then there are the users who didn’t install the Windows security patch that would have prevented an attack. A small portion of the blame falls on Microsoft, which wrote the insecure code in the first place. One could certainly condemn the Shadow Brokers, a group of hackers with links to Russia who …
Puzzling out TSA's Laptop Travel Ban
On Monday, the TSA announced a peculiar new security measure to take effect within 96 hours. Passengers flying into the US on foreign airlines from eight Muslim countries would be prohibited from carrying aboard any electronics larger than a smartphone. They would have to be checked and put into the cargo hold. And now the UK is following suit.
It’s difficult to make sense of this as a security measure, particularly at a time when many people question the veracity of government orders, but other explanations are either unsatisfying or damning…
Cybersecurity Issues for the Next Administration
Solutions require both corporate regulation and international cooperation
This essay appeared on Time.com as part of a special section called Let’s Talk About the Issues.
On today’s Internet, too much power is concentrated in too few hands. In the early days of the Internet, individuals were empowered. Now governments and corporations hold the balance of power. If we are to leave a better Internet for the next generations, governments need to rebalance Internet power more towards the individual. This means several things.
First, less surveillance. Surveillance has become the business model of the Internet, and an aspect that is appealing to governments worldwide. While computers make it easier to collect data, and networks to aggregate it, governments should do more to ensure that any surveillance is exceptional, transparent, regulated and targeted. It’s a tall order; governments such as that of the U.S. need to overcome their own mass-surveillance desires, and at the same time implement regulations to fetter the ability of Internet companies to do the same…
New Leaks Prove It: The NSA Is Putting Us All at Risk to Be Hacked
The National Security Agency is lying to us. We know that because of data stolen from an NSA server was dumped on the internet. The agency is hoarding information about security vulnerabilities in the products you use, because it wants to use it to hack others’ computers. Those vulnerabilities aren’t being reported, and aren’t getting fixed, making your computers and networks unsafe.
On August 13, a group calling itself the Shadow Brokers released 300 megabytes of NSA cyberweapon code on the internet. Near as we experts can tell, the NSA network itself wasn’t hacked; what probably happened was that a “staging server” for NSA cyberweapons—that is, a server the NSA was making use of to mask its surveillance activities—was hacked in 2013…
Your iPhone Just Got Less Secure. Blame the FBI.
When Johns Hopkins discovered a different security flaw, it notified Apple so the problem could be fixed. The FBI is keeping its newly found breach a secret from everyone.
The FBI’s legal battle with Apple is over, but the way it ended may not be good news for anyone.
Federal agents had been seeking to compel Apple to break the security of an iPhone 5c that had been used by one of the San Bernardino, Calif., terrorists. Apple had been fighting a court order to cooperate with the FBI, arguing that the authorities’ request was illegal and that creating a tool to break into the phone was itself harmful to the security of every iPhone user worldwide.
Last week, the FBI told the court it had learned of a possible way to break into the phone…
Security vs. Surveillance
Both the “going dark” metaphor of FBI Director James Comey and the contrasting “golden age of surveillance” metaphor of privacy law professor Peter Swire focus on the value of data to law enforcement. As framed in the media, encryption debates are about whether law enforcement should have surreptitious access to data, or whether companies should be allowed to provide strong encryption to their customers.
It’s a myopic framing that focuses only on one threat—criminals, including domestic terrorists—and the demands of law enforcement and national intelligence. This obscures the most important aspects of the encryption issue: the security it provides against a much wider variety of threats…
Hacking Team, Computer Vulnerabilities, and the NSA
When the National Security Administration (NSA)—or any government agency—discovers a vulnerability in a popular computer system, should it disclose it or not? The debate exists because vulnerabilities have both offensive and defensive uses. Offensively, vulnerabilities can be exploited to penetrate others’ computers and networks, either for espionage or destructive purposes. Defensively, publicly revealing security flaws can be used to make our own systems less vulnerable to those same attacks. The two options are mutually exclusive: either we can help to secure both our own networks and the systems we might want to attack, or we can keep both networks vulnerable. Many, myself …
Why are We Spending $7 Billion on TSA?
News that the Transportation Security Administration missed a whopping 95% of guns and bombs in recent airport security “red team” tests was justifiably shocking. It’s clear that we’re not getting value for the $7 billion we’re paying the TSA annually.
But there’s another conclusion, inescapable and disturbing to many, but good news all around: We don’t need $7 billion worth of airport security. These results demonstrate that there isn’t much risk of airplane terrorism, and we should ratchet security down to pre-9/11 levels.
The World's Most Sophisticated Hacks: Governments?
Last month, Moscow-based security software maker Kaspersky Labs published detailed information on what it calls the Equation Group and how the U.S. National Security Agency and their U.K. counterpart, GCHQ, have figure how to embed spyware deep inside computers, gaining almost total control of those computers to eavesdrop on most of the world’s computers, even in the face of reboots, operating system reinstalls, and commercial anti-virus products. The details are impressive, and I urge anyone interested in tech to read the Kaspersky documents, or these …
Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.