The revelations about the NSA by Edward Snowden may be beneficial for Europe.
Speaking at the Trust in the Digital World conference in Vienna, Professor Bart Preneel from the Catholic University Leuven said that while the news undermined cryptographic standards and it was bad for NIST, it was an opportunity for Europe.
He said: “As cryptographers, we knew that there was a backdoor but we didn’t know anyone was using it. This has proved that the NSA has complete control over internet, but you never know if it is a service you have entered or if the NSA is spying, and cryptography doesn’t help and the way we apply doesn’t help, and the NSA cannot deny it either. GCHQ the same.
“Next, many more nations will want capabilities with complete control of the internet, no firewalls or perimeter will stop this and it is the first step to cyber war. Commercial companies will be happy to provide tools for things like this, so we will see proliferation and then it will be a walled internet and implications on openness.”
Preneel said that while he felt this scenario was unlikely to happen, one solution could be to have security made in each country, but would prefer a European-wide standard as each country will see many backdoors and with so many, it will be difficult to build.
Earlier in his keynote, Preneel said that there are a few security players in Europe and while Snowden showed that we are “up against the NSA opponent and to us it was not surprising”, what was surprising was the scale of impact and level of sophistication.
Speaking in another session, Dr Jorge Lopez Hernandez-Ardieta called for European products to carry an flag saying it was built in Europe so security could be guaranteed.
“There is ,ore guarantee it will comply with legislation and work with the core beliefs of privacy and more control from European Governments. If we follow our schemes we have guarantee we are working with European standards.”