The NSA set fire to the internet, and the rest of the world needs to be the fire fighter.
Speaking at the SXSW Conference in Austin, Texas, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden said that the stories of the past eight months showed the “adversarial internet” and said that what he found and reported was “nothing which we asked for or wanted, but something we have to protect against”.
Snowden pointed the finger at two NSA officials, Keith Alexander and Alex Hayden for “elevating offensive operations over the defence of communications” and said that they had done more to harm national security than any other to “get an attack advantage”.
He said: “America has more to lose than anyone else when an attack succeeds. It doesn’t make sense to attack all day and not defend, and have a big back door that anyone can walk into. This affects everyone in the world as we rely on ability to rely on our standards, and without it we cannot succeed.”
Also participating in the debate was Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union. He said that the US Government works with companies “to intentionally weaken security” and “everyone is left to defend themselves online as the Government prioritises it efforts to surveillance and it is a target waiting to be attacked”.
Snowden was especially critical not of the surveillance, but of the general collection and storage of data. Soghoian said that the Government created a massive database, and says it doesn’t look at it but there is a potentially slippery slope in the future. “Even if you trust the current administration, it changes every few years.”
Asked by internet inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee if an accountability system were to be built, how it could be made more accountable and improved, Snowden said that the key fact is accountability as we “cannot have officials who lie and do not face criticism”.
He said: “We need public advocates and trusted figures to make sure it is applied, and a watchdog who can tell you just been lied to.”
Soghoian said that Snowden’s disclosures have improved security, and encouraged companies to improve security and communications that “they should have been doing it anyway and privacy regulators should have forced them”.