When President Obama responded to the Edward Snowden leaks, he admitted to having a healthy skepticism toward the United States’ surveillance programs. Yet despite his doubts he voiced his support, recognizing that privacy and security were somewhat mutually exclusive. “You can’t have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience” he said, “We’re going to have to make some choices as a society.” That was in 2014, but now, both privacy and security are at risk.
When Obama voiced these concerns, the debate over net neutrality and cyber-surveillance seemed to be strictly domestic debate. When it was revealed that the National Security Agency had been collecting millions of phone since 2013, the question of government overreach was brought to Americans’ attention as they feared that their privacy was at stake. However, as the political and social atmosphere within the United States have changed, so too has the debate over security. The debate of surveillance will continue in the United States as we continue to search for the perfect balance of protection from both domestic and foreign threats. Recently, however, a very clear threat has been recognized and it comes far from U.S. shores.
Deep in the heart of Russia’s capital sits a cyber-security and antivirus provider, Kaspersky Labs. Their products require complete access to all the information stored on a computer so that it can successfully scour the system for viruses or other dangerous activity. Israeli officials recently discovered that this software “provided a perfect tool for Russian intelligence to exploit the contents of computers and retrieve whatever they found of interest.” The very mechanism set in place by the United States to protect its servers opened the door and welcomed the Russians to classified information. The New York Times noted that Russia was able to “aggressively scan for American government classified programs and pull any findings back to Russian intelligence systems.” The extent to which Kaspersky was made aware of the Russian government’s felonious behavior has still to be uncovered, but it’s clear the United States is playing in the dark. This marks a new age of highly covert cyber-warfare, the implications of which span far beyond concerns of the NSA’s surveillance during the Obama-era.
As a country, we’re entering uncharted territory. The United States has seen its share of cyber-threats, but it now seems as though any effort to protect ourselves ultimately opens the door to danger. As our country’s technology and its usage evolve, so do the threats. Our country’s political landscape is going through a change and it’s time we take a good look at the world around us and recognize that the threats are far more complex than ever before.
Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them. Email Jacob Bass at [email protected]