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Monthly Archives: May 2015

20
May
2015

Privacy And Technology Interests Converge for Showdown At White House

by Bill

HackersA recent letter cosigned by decision makers at Apple, Google, and others who believe the government is putting American citizens at risk by requiring tech companies to include a “back door for law enforcement” have has been issued to President Obama, and the letter openly urges the President to take immediate action and prevent such a move by Congress before the damage is done.

The Washington Post obtained a copy of the letter as governmental interests, tech leaders and watchdog groups continue to draw battle lines around the protection of seemingly incongruous national security, privacy and technology interests in the wake of Edward Snowden’s mass surveillance whistleblowing attempts.

FBI Director FBI James B. Comey argues locking out law enforcement would put innocent people at risk. Watchdogs claim the right to privacy is too important to overlook and a lack of protection of that right makes our national security a pointless exercise at best because we would no longer be protecting a fundamental element of the American way of life. While Tech companies have stated that a “backdoor for the good guys” would also necessitate creating a vulnerability that could just as easily be exploited by the people the government aims to defend us against.

The letter states in part that “Encryption protects billions of people every day against countless threats—be they street criminals trying to steal our phones and laptops, computer criminals trying to defraud us, corporate spies trying to obtain our companies’ most valuable trade secrets, repressive governments trying to stifle dissent, or foreign intelligence agencies trying to compromise our and our allies’ most sensitive national security secrets… This protection would be undermined by the mandatory insertion of any new vulnerability into encrypted devices and services. Whether you call them ‘front doors’ or ‘back doors,’ introducing intentional vulnerabilities into secure products for the government’s use will make those products less secure against other attackers.”

The letter which was also signed by civil society groups, leviathan companies like Facebook, Cisco, and HP goes on to argue that requiring businesses to shred their own encryption policies would cause those businesses to endure undue financial risk as consumers continue to become increasingly aware of the complicity with the government’s ability to spy on American citizens.

The letter states plainly that “Introducing mandatory vulnerabilities into American products would further push many customers—be they domestic or international, individual or institutional—to turn away from those compromised products and services. Instead, they—and many of the bad actors whose behavior the government is hoping to impact—will simply rely on encrypted offerings from foreign providers, or avail themselves of the wide range of free and open-source encryption products that are easily available online…. The Administration faces a critical choice: will it adopt policies that foster a global digital ecosystem that is more secure, or less?” the letter asks. “That choice may well define the future of the Internet in the 21st century.”

Whether one believes Edward Snowden to be a Saint or a Spy – there can no longer be any doubt that his action have opened up a national dialogue about the importance of privacy and security, as well as the complicated interplay between the factions who are now tasked with finding a way to provide us with both. How these deliberations are ultimately resolved will shape the future of the Internet on a fundamental level, and NationalNet will continue to monitor these discussions on behalf of our fully managed hosting clients who rely on us to provide the highest level of security allowed by law and the greatest degree of privacy possible in the current political climate.

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11
May
2015

Court Strikes A Blow to Government Mass Collection of Phone Records

by Bill

With the Patriot Act coming up for renewal in just a month’s time, The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled recently that the bulk collection of Americans’ phone metadata by the NSA wasn’t in fact authorized by section 215 of the Patriot Act, in contradiction to assertions made by the intelligence community, since the program was revealed by Edward Snowden about two years ago.

While this ruling will not result in an immediate stoppage of the program, and it is possible that the ruling will be overturned on appeal, it could very well signal the end of the controversial collection of all American’s Mobile phone metadata, as it will be a problematic position for lawmakers to explicitly approve the program. As stated in the ruling: “We hold that the text of § 215 cannot bear the weight the government asks us to assign to it, and that it does not authorize the telephone metadata program,” the ruling reads. “We do so comfortably in the full understanding that if Congress chooses to authorize such a far-reaching and unprecedented program, it has every opportunity to do so, and to do so unambiguously. Until such time as it does so, however, we decline to deviate from widely accepted interpretations of well‐established legal standards.”

A reform bill known as the USA Freedom Act, which seeks to rein in metadata collection, has been introduced in the House, but is presently opposed by Republicans. The ruling does not declare the metadata collection unconstitutional, the position taken by the ACLU in it’s arguments before the court, stating that the program was a breach of the fourth amendment protections against warrantless search and seizure, but merely states that if congress really intends that the government should be collecting all of this data, it needs to explicitly state so.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence in defending the program was of the position that the re-authorization of the Patriot Act in 2010 and 2011 were an implicit approval of the program, however In the wake of the Snowden leaks, Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, one of the primary authors of the bill, stated that the blanket collection of American’s phone metadata was never envisioned when they proposed the Patriot Act, rather that 215 was intended for targeted investigations, not for mass surveillance.

As these stories continue to take root, it becomes increasingly obvious each day that privacy and data security go hand-in-hand in the modern world. Proper server management and data storage best-practices go a long way toward keeping your content secure from third-parties, and while government interaction would likely be needed to fend off NSA level eavesdropping, it is even more important to protect your data from getting into the hands of less scrupulous hackers or data miners.

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