Back to reality

My apologies for radio silence on this blog. It’s been due to an exceptionally busy workload coupled with an extended holiday I’m now back with lots of views about what’s going on and what’s going wrong with cyber security.

Over the last month I’ve been concerned about the press coverage about the Snowden case. Privacy advocates and journalists have lauded his efforts, often with little understanding of the consequences to national security. I was surprised for example to read that Bruce Schneier had nailed his colours firmly to the Guardian mast and was advocating large scale whistle blowing.

There are strong arguments from both the security and privacy sides. We clearly need a more informed public debate about both the dangers and the benefits of large-scale communications surveillance. We’re now seeing the beginnings of a reaction from senior figures in the intelligence community suggesting that serious damage to national security has been done. Pundits and journalists cannot assess or refute such damage without evidence to the contrary. And there seems to be little if any evidence of government misuse of intercepted data. So who is right? 

I’ve always taken the view that the security professional should be above the political debate. I care about national security as well as citizen privacy. And society seems equally divided on the importance of both. These requirements need to be carefully balanced. A public debate is well overdue. Unfortunately the Snowden revelations have gone further than is necessary to provoke a debate. And they have not delivered evidence that access to citizen data is being misused. 

One day there might be terrorist groups with access to weapons of mass destruction. When that transpires we will be grateful to agencies that can prevent such attacks though smart data mining. That’s not of course to say that controls to prevent potential abuse of intelligence data should be ignored. But continuous releases of details of interception methods and platforms can only serve to undermine the high ground claimed by the whistle blowers.

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