RSA 2012: Schneier on Why Anonymous Is Not a Group and Why They're Certainly Not As Good As You Think They Are

At the RSA Conference 2012 in San Francisco, February 29, Bruce Schneier and Davi Ottenheimer discuss Schneier’s latest book and how to enable the trust that society needs to thrive.

Following on from Schneier’s talk yesterday on the three biggest risks to information security in 2012, this discussion focussed purely on the topic of Schneier’s latest book, Liars and Outliers.

Here are some of the session highlights:

  • Security depends on people. “I started in cryptography because I didn’t like people. I wanted to study numbers. Anyone in security needs to understand that people act in unpredictable ways.”
  • The ID theft concern is great. “We worry that ID theft will become such a danger that people would stop shopping and doing stuff online. We’re not there yet. There’s the potential for this to happen, but it’s our job as security professionals to make sure it doesn’t”.
  • Too much security is a problem: “If there’s too much security you lose all ability for social change.”
  • Attackers and technology move faster than the defense: “Attackers use brand new technologies and we respond with defense. As technology moves faster, there is larger scope for defections and the amount of danger that a single defector can do increases”.
  • Anonymous isn’t all bad: “Some of the stuff anonymous is doing has social good and worth. Some of the stuff they’re doing is bad. A lot of its actions show it to be immoral. Whistleblowers are good for society. People that break into stuff for fun are not.”
  • Anonymous isn’t as good as you think they are: “Anonymous are perceived to be better than they are because they only publish their successes.”
  • Anonymous isn’t a group: “Anonymous is more of a name that anyone can pub upon themselves if they act in a way that is consistent with Anonymous’ work. We shouldn’t think of them as an actual group”.
  • Trust is easier in smaller social groups: “People can navigate complicated, intimate trust boundaries. These boundaries start failing when the social group gets bigger or the social group moves online”.
  • Technology makes us better: “Technology allows us to be more moral. It’s a phenomenal for us as a species. It makes us better. Will the bad guys drown this out? I hope not”.

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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.