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

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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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DerSpiegel – NSA Aftermath: German Firms Scramble To Boost Data Protection

General Keith Alexander, director of NSA, chief of CSS and commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, speaks during a hacker convention in Las Vegas

SPIEGEL ONLINE International Companies in Germany Scramble to Strengthen Data Protection Abilities NSA Aftermath: German Firms Scramble to Boost Data Protection By SPIEGEL Staff REUTERS German companies have long suspected China and Russia of trying to steal their secrets. But the NSA scandal has turned their attention west, forcing them to worry about prying American […]

Knowledge is power: Industrial espionage, data protection and the quest for meaning

There are people who suffer from a specific condition of the mind called hyperthymesia. It is a neurological condition where one cannot forget anything that has ever taken place in his life. The effect of such a condition is destructive because knowledge is based on forgetting.

Without this ability, we wouldn’t be able to make sense of anything since everything would be always present. Meaning comes through the choice of what needs to be remembered and what can and should be forgotten. Like when you bring in your mind the image of a forest, first, we need to forget about the details of all those single trees.

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If this is the condition of the human mind, what does this mean in a world based on data collection and management? Or, to pose the question in a different manner, if in order to create knowledge the human mind needs to forget, what data does an organization or a business needs to put aside? Should there be an expiration date, where after it passes, certain data collected loses meaning and has to be deleted or should we hold on to all data forever? Would this be meaningful? What needs to be protected?

The right management of data is power. The choices organizations make on what to keep and what to “forget” makes them more or less effective. What remains is all that gives meaning to their existence; valuable pieces of data which when combined produce knowledge.

Knowledge is Power. People know it, companies know it, nation states know it. In this context, certain data need to be protected just like certain data can be forgotten. It makes sense.

In a recent article from Der Spiegel, after the recent NSA scandal and the revelations of large scale data mining by the USA, the author claims that data protection and security has become an issue of even greater importance.

As noted in the article, executives in many companies in Germany have become increasingly nervous and have taken extreme defensive measures. Specific documents that were sent by email are now delivered in paper to the recipient. The only data that are still sent via email are those that have no real value and the company would have no issue posting publicly.

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It has become common knowledge among companies that they have to protect themselves from the eyes of competitors. Spies are everywhere.

They might be working for an intelligence agency or an industrial giant. They might be plain amateurs. What is clear though is that there is a secret war taking place in the web. Just like in real wars, there are armies of mercenaries waiting for the highest bidder to buy their services. Knowledge is power.

In Germany, the number of attacks every day is in the hundreds of thousands. The United Kingdom reports 120.000 attacks every day. Only in the state of Utah according to a report made by the chief information officer and executive director of the Utah Department of Technology Services there are more than 20.000.000 attacks per day, while in a most alarming news story, according to officials of the National Nuclear Security Administration, the agency in charge of U.S.A.’s nuclear weapons, reports their computer systems face millions of hacking attempts daily! The number of attacks increases by the day all over the world. It is well documented.

To secure your business’s data, in these conditions, is not an easy task. However, there are trained professionals that have proven themselves on the field of data protection. Companies that can give you a sense of security when it comes to insuring that your valuable pieces of data that give meaning to your organization’s existence and well being will not be lost. Companies that will help you manage effectively the increasing cost and complexity of data growth, of what to keep and what to “forget”. That will train your staff on critical elements of data protection.

Maybe this is the most crucial choice that you will have to make. The choice of the professional you will trust to help you fight most effectively a war of increasing importance; the war for knowledge.

And this is something you should not forget: this war is not a matter of choice.