Edward Snowden: revealing the ongoing war on data that no one wants to know

report-nicaragua-willing-to-give-asylum-to-edward-snowden

It all started with a young man called Edward Joseph Snowden. A former CIA employee and NSA contractor who publicized many top – secret US and British government mass surveillance programs such as the PRISM, Tempora and Xkeystore.

Some call him a hero, others call him a traitor. The undeniable truth is that he is responsible for the most significant leak in US history.

According to his own words his sole motive was “to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them”. Edward Snowden didn’t want the story to be about him. He wanted it to be: “about what the US government is doing… about what kind of world we want to live in”.

The world in shock

Now, the whole world is in shock. Leaders of great nations also expressed their shock. As if this somehow makes them innocent. Angela Merkel puts a sad face and shows her mobile phone. Now look at me, she might had said, I am just like you: “bad spies tapped my phone too”.  “This should not be done among allies”, she complains. She just didn’t expect it. It was such s shock.

I suppose she didn’t know that when a leader of one of the greatest nations of the world uses an unsecured cellphone, there is a high probability that the NSA or any other agency of any country might try to intercept it.

But if Angela Merkel showing her mobile phone with a sad face raises questions, it all becomes quite preposterous when French political leaders express their “deep shock” about the extent of monitoring taking place in their country by US intelligence services.

“France is the evil empire”

France, according to the CEO of a top German satellite manufacturer “is the evil empire, stealing technology and Germany knows this”.

French secret agencies don’t need the US to spy on their citizens. They can do it on their own without help from “outsiders”. According to a revealing article by “Le Monde” the French foreign intelligence service DGSE “systematically collects the electromagnetic signals from computers and phones in France, as well as the exchange [of data] between France and abroad.” The newspaper notes that: “Politicians are perfectly aware of it, but secrecy is the rule”.  I am deeply shocked.

The fact is that French intelligence budget was increased by 9 percent for 1992 — and this was the period just after the end of the Cold War.

The Germans do it. As Hans – Georg Wieck, the former CEO of the German foreign intelligence service BND stated, there was no surprise at the extent of internet surveillance by British and US intelligence agencies. These are “the natural, daily bread of the secret services”—including the BND.

Everyone spies

China, South Korea, Japan, also do it.

Even Canada does it; The Canadian Secret Agency spied on the Brazilian mining and energy ministry. Then they met in Ottawa with corporations that have interests in Brazil and briefed them on everything they had learnt. You see, there are more than 40 Canadian companies involved in Brazil’s mining sector. The stakes are high.

It is not even about terrorism or security anymore. It is about economy and corporations.

After the end of the Cold War it was clear that international rivalry would be economic rather than political – military. Consequently, in the US, the Clinton administration decided to establish the National Economic Council. From that moment after economic issues where of the same importance as national security issues. Even a “war room” was established by the Commerce Department.

This change had an effect on US intelligence agencies. International trade and competitiveness was the new battlefield. CIA’s director-designate R. James Woolsey said in 1993 that economic intelligence has become “the hottest current topic in intelligence policy”.

Economic security similar to military security

Other great nations followed similar paths. For all of them economic security is similar to military security. If many things were permitted towards achieving traditional security the same applied to economic security.

Pierre Marion, the former director of DGSE, the French equivalent of the CIA described France as a notorious economic spy: “We are really allied. But in the economic competition, in the technological competition, we are competitors; we are not allied.” For him, it was natural that the US will receive the most attention from intelligence services: “America has the most technical information of relevance. It is easily accessible.”

Stansfield Turned, intelligence director during the Carter administration had a similar view: “If economic strength should be now recognized as a vital component of national security, parallel with military power, why should America be concerned about stealing and employing economic secrets?”

Nobody knows anything

The entire world is doing it and yet no one seems to know anything about it.

Some say that all this is too obviously hypocritical, statements meant for public opinion. Noone really wants the spying “monster” killed because they raised it.

And it is true, if the French and German governments cared so much about their citizens learning that their privacy and data are being systematically assaulted and used without their consent wouldn’t it make sense that their government would be the first to offer asylum to the person who made everything visible? Instead, they denied him of any support; they didn’t listen to his pleas for protection of his basic political rights. They were even hostile. It was like they tried to stop him from leaking more secrets.

Edward Snowden as a villain

Many believe that the open outrage expressed by nations against NSA practices was really an outrage towards the person who revealed all their secrets and the media who made them public. Something larger was in stake..

Governments already knew, citizens didn’t; They “didn’t have to know”.

Edward Snowden made evident that there is a whole system based on economic espionage and data collection. It takes place in unprecedented levels. And this is “business as usual”.

Revising the 1995 data protection law

From this point of view the discussion opened by the revelations about the NSA surveillance programs around the necessity of a revision of the 1995 data protection law in the European Union reflecting the changing nature of internet usage should be seen as part of an ongoing economic war that has become central for the security of nations after the end of the Cold War. And it is more than clear that in our times of crisis data is more important than ever. It can be decisive.

“We have to accept that apparently, the NSA is monitoring the entire global telecommunications goings-on. We have to achieve a political, international agreement that this is unacceptable and has to be limited,” said Alexander Dix, Berlin Commissioner for Data Protection. “This applies to other intelligence [bureaus] as well, not only the American ones”.

http://rt.com/news/data-protection-rules-eu-491/

100 million euro fines for breaching data protection

This measure if approved will force companies outside the EU such as Facebook, Yahoo and Google to comply with European data protection laws when they operate in Europe. Fines for breaching data protection rules could reach up to 100 million euros. In the new legislation prepared there is also a “right to erasure” clause that limits the access of internet companies to the private data of users.

The draft approved on October 21st – with a record-breaking 4,000 amendments – has elements that aim at winning over skeptical business interests with requirements for small and midsize organizations and businesses – as long as their central focus is not information processing – being much less than larger companies.

Complying with new requirements

With changes of such great scale taking place organizations of any size trust well – established companies on the sector of data protection to help them cope with new requirements.

Iron mountain is a company with a long history of high quality data protection services that are designed to mitigate risks in compliance with regulations that demand uniform processes and accountability.

It is not just a requirement of the law, it is a necessity. In a world where securing data is linked to the survival of businesses, institutions, even nations, no one has the right to pretend being shocked. It just won’t do it.

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Healthcare Information Management in the Era of Information Technology

Doctor looking through Records

Doctor looking through Records

Where I come from, and as I was growing up, I remember clearly that there was a dream that many parents shared: to see their children growing to become doctors. Of course, lawyers were equally popular among most parents’ dreams: which parent wouldn’t have dreamed to see his or her precious child graduating law school? Not many, I can assure you of that! Nevertheless, becoming a doctor was probably even more prestigious. Doctors were always seen (and I don’t think that this will ever dramatically change) as prominent members of the society. Unless robots take over one day in the very remote future, doctors will still be around, offering their services to their fellow citizens and whoever needs them.

Societies are not something fixed, though; as a matter of fact, they are constantly changing. Nowadays, with the emergence of information society, there is a profession that rapidly gained popularity. Healthcare Information Professionals (HIM) are altering the professional landscape of the world of medicine, responding to the present needs of developed societies.

The meteoric rise of the role of information management nowadays, paralleled by the sudden death of the era when professionals had to deal with paper records stored in desks and folders, have created the need for specialized professionals in data and records management in all professional fields. In hospitals, HIM professionals are becoming more and more necessary, as the way we understand medicine and the treatment of patients is also rapidly transforming.

Inventory and intelligent data management

Data management doesn’t concern only the specialized companies that are dealing with information management and storage. On the contrary, in every professional field the need for more efficient use of data is urgent. Today, the use of data in order to optimize healthcare for patients is as urgent as it has never been before. Therefore, the whole essence of what is the role of a HIM professional has totally changed.

Education is also affected by these developments. Universities that offer health information management degree programs are focusing more and more on data analysis and research, today more than ever before. Students receive training in computer software programs to analyze data. Generally speaking, it becomes more and more obvious that in our times any professional must have basic knowledge of computer programming and must acquire the necessary skills for a job office that is getting much more complicated than it used to be. If you ask the elder in the profession how it used to be decades ago, you will hear stories of a remote era. Along with the technological advancement even the job realities changed and we definitely have to keep up the pace, even enjoy the benefits of what it’s being offered in terms of improved services and efficiency.

A direct consequence of the increasing importance of information technology in the field of healthcare information management is the larger number of men to be hired in a previously female-dominated profession. What is more, and according to the experts in the field, what is becoming more evident as time passes is that all HIM professionals must be ready to adapt relatively fast to new challenges and that they must keep an open eye to the rapid and continuous changes in their professional field.


As for the future, AHIMA (American Health Information Management Association) is already planning and trying to explore new possibilities. One idea is supposedly to try to organize the HIM profession in a large collaborative project, where professionals are working together in the way that NASA’s Mission Control Center operates. The leading figures in the field also agree that a higher level of education must be pursued by the HIM professionals, an education that must include information governance skills and knowledge as well.

Sure, the world is changing. Sometimes we feel glad about it, but occasionally we get stressed trying to keep up with the… changes! One thing is for certain, though: nowadays, education is a lifelong project and everyone must remember Solon, the wise ancient Greek, who once said… “as I grow older, I constantly learn more”… Maybe parents should learn that being a doctor is not the only prestigious profession in the field anymore and that being a healthcare information manager is just as demanding.

Use of Social Media in Investigations

Blog Now

canstockphoto10560861All investigators, when tackling rogue traders, fraudsters or errant employees, need to make use of the Internet as an investigatory tool. Unfortunately there is a lack of knowledge of Internet investigation techniques amongst investigators especially those working in the public sector. The Internet can reveal a treasure trove of free information, which can even lead to the perpetrators’ door (literally).

Do you have a smartphone and therefore an on-line account for managing email, contacts and messages? Do you use it for accessing applications such Instagram, Flickr (for storing photographs online) and Facebook?

If these applications are used, without properly controlled account settings, then available on-line (for all to see) is your private information, your photographs and other personal data. Even information that you yourself have not uploaded or stored can be mined for more personal information. You might have had photographs taken by a professional, for example for the sale…

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Trust: It’s the Bottom Line of Life

Emmanuel Sumithran Gnanamanickam, a community leader and manager of an NGO in South India, is an inspiring young man. He and his small group of people have dedicated their lives to provide basic health care, education and support to tribal groups in the region. He said that his experience with the tribes taught him a very important lesson:

unless you are willing to trust, and be trusted by people, life cannot go on, because a lot of what happens in life is based on trust. It’s the bottom line of life”.

There are quite a few things that have happened recently that made me also think about trust, how important it is for our lives. There is an unprecedented crisis that affects us all. Companies close, people are left unemployed; there is a lot of insecurity and uncertainty out there. Many seem to have lost their confidence in their government or even towards society as a whole. Others feel betrayed as if somehow a contract has been broken. I have heard too many speak of their lost faith in the human kind; they are our friends, our neighbors, our family.

Our lives are woven together as in a fabric, but the connections that used to make society strong now seem to make us vulnerable. What we seem to be lacking of is trust and somehow this seems to have a negative effect on everyone’s life.  It is proven for example that where trust is low, crime and corruption are high.

From a business perspective, IBM boss Thomas J. Watson notes that: “The toughest thing about the power of trust is that it’s very difficult to build and very easy to destroy.”

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Trust is valuable and needs to be fostered. Trust is the key. When you are in a relationship, if you can’t trust the person you are with, the relationship will fail. Trust involves a degree of vulnerability; People feel safe in the hands of another therefore share personal information, feelings, thoughts. It is necessary in a romantic relationship, in a relationship of a patient with a doctor, in a relationship between a customer and a company, between a citizen and his government. Trust is a silent contract; people have confidence that the other part will not act or use information shared against their interests and will fulfill a certain role.

Almost everything evolves a relationship of trust. A trivial thing like driving a car is based on trust. If I didn’t trust that the drivers of the cars coming against me would stay on their own side of the road, driving would become a very difficult and dangerous experience. A law is valid only when people trust that it is on their interest and act accordingly.

To give another example, if I was lost in a country I‘ve never been and I didn’t trust the people, I would be quite stressed and full of anxiety when asking directions or any kind of request. I would personally spend a lot of time and energy to evaluate the correctness of the information handed to me in fear of being tricked into an unknown and unpleasant situation. You’ve seen horror movies. You know how it all starts and how it ends. Can you really trust these strange people?

Yes, you guessed correctly, low trust makes you paranoid…

The simple fact is that you don’t have to get lost in a strange country with strange people to become paranoid. Just ask all those who don’t trust their government. Maybe they have a real reason.  According to recent researches, fewer Americans than ever trust their government to solve their problems. The same goes for British and Greeks  to give but a few examples of a growing global tendency.

And what happens when citizens don’t trust politicians? They seem to get drawn towards conspiracy theories. In Greece, more and more people believe in the theory of chemtrails. Paranoia, is a sign of low trust and signifies a severely damaged relationship; in the case of Greece between citizens and government.

We live in times of a crisis. These are difficult times for many that test the strength of our relationships. This is true for individuals, as it is for companies and governments. My recent observations would suggest that nowadays more than ever progression in business demands uncommon levels of trust. Buyers are more nervous than ever before. And it makes sense.

The only way to turn this situation around is by really caring for your customer. You see, the thing about trust is that you can’t fake it. And this is where actions speak louder than words. Action is the only language of trust.

In the field of business, an example of such an action that helps foster a relationship of trust is a software escrow agreement http://www.ironmountain.co.uk/services/software-escrow.

. It is signed between developers and users of software to ensure that despite what happens, in case of an uncontrolled catastrophe, due to a bankruptcy or a merger with another company, the user of the product will not be left without access to the source code that might be required for maintenance, disaster recovery or upgrades. And this can make the difference.

As Emmanuel Sumithran Gnanamanickam said, trust is vital; without it “life cannot go on, because a lot of what happens in life is based on trust. It’s the bottom line of life”. In our difficult times (which will unfortunately be with us for quite a long) this is truer than ever. In the end, “to be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved” (George MacDonald, The Marquis of Lossie, 1877). Just think about it.

The importance of trust and the question of software escrow agreements

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Trust starts from the very beginning. From the way you lay the foundations of a business. It is about the relationships you form with your employees, with your customers, with your providers. Trust is the invisible glue that keeps all parts together. Without it, all collapse. It can’t be measured but when it exists, you know it is there. In its absence, simple problems can lead to catastrophes.

Take for example, the case of a possible important decision that you will have to make; the choice of customizable software for running your business. Now, what weights the most in such decisions is that the software fits your needs. But the next most important aspect is that the software you decide to purchase will keep on working under any circumstances. You just can’t risk organizing your business on a program that might fail you on a critical moment due to circumstances out of your hand. This is just out of the question.

You will ask me and you will be correct to ask me such a question: “how does this have to do with trust?”

In order for your business to run, it needs specific programs provided by software vendors. You find the software that fits your needs and you purchase a copy of it. When you purchase the software what you gain access to is the “object code”. The object code is the program that runs at your computer and all supporting data that are necessary for the software to run properly and according to your needs. Therefore, when you buy software what you gain access to is the use of an “executable” program, not the program itself;  its deep rooted essence – the “source code” – is something completely different.

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A copy of the Source-Code in a protected location.

But why is the “source code” so important?

Source code” is what makes a program; a sequence of statements and operations that have a logical sequence written in a computer programming language such as Java, C++ or Visual Basic. It controls how data is processed and how the software functions. These “logical sequences” can be many thousands of lines of code. Who “writes” these lines? That is the work of programmers, specialists who know how to read and what to write in such languages. You could call them, computer linguists. In the end, when all work is done, the result is an “executable code” which the consumer and user of the program can install and run on his computer.

Software vendors don’t usually give access to the “source code” or technical documentation that goes in depth. They don’t want to. Why should they give you access to knowledge of the ways the program functions, when as a consumer you only need to know how to use the program? Why should they give up so easily on their intellectual property? They see themselves as the owners of a knowledge that is on their interest to remain confidential. It makes sense.

However, there are cases when all becomes very problematic; special circumstances that require that access to the source code should be made available. Such case is when the software developer doesn’t have the ability anymore to support the product due to an uncontrolled catastrophe, due to bankruptcy, or a merger with another company. If the user of the product doesn’t have the source code he can be left with software that lacks support and functionality. In such cases the common solution comes through a software escrow agreement. It is all about trust.

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Business handshake

The one side – the potential buyer and user – wants assurances from the other side – the software provider – that what they are getting will keep on functioning and will have support through its whole life cycle. The other side – the seller – wants to reassure the buyer that their software will keep on working no matter what happens to them as developers. Therefore, in order to seal the deal between the two sides, they agree to sign a software escrow agreement where both sides agree that the supplier holds on to the source code and will release it to the buyer – user of the software – under pre-agreed exceptional circumstances. What the supplier gets in return is reasonable assurance that the source-code will not be released in a way that can hurt his interests.

The next step is to find a trusted neutral third party that will retain a copy of the source-code in a protected location and will make it available if the specific requirements agreed are met. The deal is sealed.

Business is not about buying and selling. Business is about relations of trust. Trust creates the field for successful business. And successful business is good for you. It is good for society. It makes for a secure future for everyone. It makes life easier.

Technology and the College Generation

bluesyemre

  • As a professor who favors pop quizzes, Cedrick May is used to grimaces from students caught unprepared. But a couple of years ago, in his class on early American literature at the University of Texas at Arlington, he said he noticed “horrible, pained looks” from the whole class when they saw the questions. He soon learned that the students did not know he had changed the reading assignment because they did not check their e-mail regularly, if at all. To the students, e-mail was as antiquated as the spellings “chuse” and “musick” in the works by Cotton Mather and Jonathan Edwards that they read on their electronic books.

http://j.mp/1bkb17V

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Silent Circle will “move on” from NSA-associated encryption standards, but is that necessary?

Gigaom

The secure communications provider Silent Circle is pretty upset about the apparent betrayal of the cryptographic community by the NSA, so it’s moving away from encryption standards that the intelligence agency helped develop.

Silent Circle, co-founded by PGP author Phil Zimmermann, provides encrypted mobile and desktop voice and text services for personal and enterprise use. In a blog post on Monday, the company said it would soon adopt new defaults to replace certain widely-used standards that came out of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) with the co-operation or guidance of NSA representatives.

Steering clear

While NIST is a highly-respected standards body, it was recently forced to advise against the use of its own Dual_EC_DRBG random number generator after Edward Snowden’s leaks suggested it had been subverted by NSA representatives involved in the standardization process. Long story short: the NSA seems to have set constants in…

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