Risky Business #283 -- America, we need to talk

Surveillance scandals and thought crimes. USA! USA!
June 7, 2013 -- 

On this week's show we take a look at PRISM, the NSA's recently exposed massive surveillance program. Leaked PowerPoint slides from NSA describe a surveillance system that allows the agency to effortlessly capture a target's YouTube, Google, Facebook and Skype. This has been reported as these companies allowing the US government access to "back doors" on their systems.

In this week's episode we look at an alternative theory: The NSA is actually capturing information on "persons of interest" in real-time via fibre taps, decrypting it with private keys, then storing it. It's our theory and we're sticking with it. Listen to this week's episode to see if you agree!

Also this week we've got Tenable's chief of security, Marcus Ranum, stopping by in this week's sponsor interview to follow up on his keynote speech at AusCERT. The speech was called Never Fight a Land War in Cyber Space and it's really about the idea that conventional military thinking doesn't apply to the Internet.

I published a recording of his talk and it got a great reaction, but I was left with some questions after I saw it. So I rang him up and asked them! It's actually a really, really interesting interview so make sure you tune in for it.

You can find this week's show notes here.

****EDITOR'S NOTE: During the discussion on PRISM, I referenced 5Tb/s of traffic between "the US, Canada and US". That should have been "The US, Canada and Europe". Sorry about that!


thomystell's picture

I know what you mean, but what is not risky nowadays? For me this is a good idea and you should implement the project!

foxie.claire's picture

WE all need to talk. With the way things are going, it seems we are not talking at all. - Kris Krohn Strongbrook

Dave-in-Japan's picture

Mr. Ranum's comments on the "military opinion of war" sound like the comments of someone who has never been in the military and bases their opinion on what they've seen watching too many conspiracy-story movies. In other words, Mr. Ranum is completely wrong regarding his opinion on military commanders and their thought processes.
Commanders do not think war is a game and do not think it's fun. *Some* of the low-ranking "work horses" might think that and make comments which when heard/seen in public give civilians world-wide the incorrect opinion that "war is a game for 'military-types.' " However those low-ranking types are never the policy makers and their statements do not reflect the mentality of upper military leadership. After listening to Mr. Ranum's opening opinion I realized I was about to listen to the opinions and various statements coming from someone who has absolutely no idea what they are talking about and listening to his opinion on Risky Business was like listening to a drunk ranting in a bar. Not that that's a completely horrible thing but it's not what I expect to get on Risky Business (my favourite podcast).

Regarding 'seizing control of the Internet and using it,' the opponents of the US and its allies work all throughout the cyber-domain regardless of system and infrastructure ownership. Because those actors disregard who 'owns' this infrastructure and use it to conduct espionage and other unauthorized operations it naturally makes sense to take every precaution possible to counter those activities.
Previously, controlling the seas determined who maintained military dominance world-wide but obviously "cyber space" is the next real battlefield and who controls it has a very real and substantial advantage in the "real world" in any sort of military operation being conducted. Naturally the US, its allies, and its opponents all are making every effort to work towards domination of this area. The big difference is that when the US is identified as an actor performing operations in a 'grey area' or something that "seems spooky" everyone panics, but when a terrorist organization or opponent of the US does it the common reaction is "oh, well that's not a surprise at all."

What this all boils down to is that many countries and organizations *will not* play nice and abide by any legislation in place now or any that gets set in the future for making the "public Internet" a "cease fire zone" to be used for econimic-based operations only. These violators will refuse to acquiesce to any court and sadly because of that the only thing to do, the smart thing to do, is to control cyber-space. No matter what it takes.

Laura's picture

Will thought crimes be far behind?

Oh and I see that Bruce Schneier has a piece up at the Atlantic calling for whistle blowers to leak more info on govt programs that are immoral. But the US is cracking down on journalists who report.