Vast data stores and small-sized removable media is enabling whistle-blowers and will enable more in future.
Speaking in his keynote address at Infosecurity Europe, Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at F-Secure, said that whistle-blowing has “been around forever” and arms insiders who believe that they can fix their wrong-doings, which can be serious or something more “down-to-earth”, like employers mis-treating employees.
He said: “Chelsea Manning would have needed a truck to steal information, what made the change is moving data in massive quantities and that changed whistle-blowing. Wikileaks showed that you can leak information without getting caught, Chelsea Manning was not caught because of Wikileaks, but by chatting and ‘confessing’ and proved that organisations can monitor leaking information.
He said that as you can now fit data on to a MicroSD card, and not just a CD-Rom or USB, which you can put in your mouth and walk away! “Internet enabled wholesale surveillance and Governments can watch as information so easy to store, and same technology that enables us to get information on wrong-doings and reveal them.”
He went on to say that while Manning’s action was the most high-profile example of leaking information, the person who stole the information is maybe not breaking the law as far as he knew. “Nothing was classified top secret, and Private Manning didn’t gain access to top secret information, What Edward Snowden released was classified top secret and went to journalists, also he did not try to hide and not interested in keeping identity unknown.”
Hypponen said that while Snowden was not a hero, he said he “has changed the world and we are in debt to him”. He also highlighted the timing of the leak on Thursday 6th June, when President Obama met the Chinese security agency to discuss surveillance.
“He leaked information and while it was unethical, it was not whistle-blowing. I’d love the true story to be a coincidence, bur he did the revelations and he sacrificed himself to save us,” he said.
“Whistle-blowing is here to stay as it is data not in lockers and we naively think we can make the world a better place, and if organisations know what Wikileaks proved – which is leaking easily without getting caught – that is when organisations know employees know that they have one option left and do it without getting caught.”