New Leaks Highlight Internet Security Weakness
The latest revelations from exiled former National Security Agency contractor
According to the Washington Post, the NSA and its British counterpart have tapped into links between
"Technologists and people who work on privacy in general have known that this can be done and may have been going on for a long time," said
Hoffman says that while the companies store data in secure facilities around the world, and even have some of their own fiber optic networks, at certain points they travel through the same cables as the rest of the Internet's data.
"Whenever you're moving things from point A to point B, there's a possibility of an intercept," he added.
NSA says its data collection is legal and is used solely to look for clues that would prevent terrorist attacks and other security threats.
While little is known about how the spy agencies made those intercepts, the routers that direct Internet traffic are one possibility, said
"I have known hackers that can hack into routers that change the code that will make it a device that transmits traffic to a third party," he said.
"At this point," he added, "it goes back to what we always thought: that if you send anything on the Internet, it's the same as if you're sending a postcard. Anybody that handles that mail can see it."
But as more and more information goes to distributed "cloud" computing networks, computer experts see both risks and benefits.
"I think many folks in the security community look at cloud computing as inherently more risky,"
"Does that mean we shouldn't use it? No. If I want to store my videos and my music up there, I'm really delighted to do that. Would I want to store the nuclear launch codes for
Hoffman said he was not surprised that security agencies were able to crack into
He says technology has gotten ahead of us. But he adds, "The technology always gets out ahead of us. People don't generally write laws until they see something that needs to be organized or controlled in some way."
"Basically, it's time to have this discussion, to do it fast, to get agreement on controls that guarantee civil liberties" and address the privacy concerns raised by the NSA revelations.
"In some sense, privacy is a precursor to freedom. If you don't have privacy, you don't have freedom."
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