Encryption is finally mainstream.Government officials and technologists have been debating since the early 1990s whether to limit the strength of encryption to help the law-enforcement and intelligence communities monitor suspects’ communications. But until early 2016, this was a mostly esoteric fight, relegated to academic conferences, security agencies’ C-suites, and the back rooms of Capitol Hill.Everything changed in mid-February, when President Barack Obama’s Justice Department, investigating the terrorists who carried out the San Bernardino, California, shooting, asked a federal judge to force Apple to help the Federal Bureau of Investigation unlock one attacker’s iPhone.What followed was an unexpectedly rancorous and unprecedentedly public fight over how far the government should go to pierce and degrade commercial security technology in its quest to protect Americans from terrorism.
Leonard Kleinrock gana el Premio Fundación BBVA Fronteras del Conocimiento
El lado oscuro de Internet. No es metáfora periodística, sino cómo define uno de los padres de la red, el ingeniero estadounidense Leonard Kleinroc, la cara más amarga de la globalización digital que vivimos. El ataque de ayer a las redes sociales del Comando Central de Estados Unidos o la ciberguerra entre Estados Unidos y Corea del Norte son dos de los últimos ejemplos de una tendencia creciente: “Muestran ese lado oscuro de Internet que ha emergido últimamente y que crecerá en el futuro”.
La felicidad por haber ganado hoy el Premio Fundación BBVA Fronteras del Conocimiento —que considera “un galardón a todos los pioneros que contribuyeron a la creación de Internet”— no es óbice para que hable sobre los nubarrones en la era digital sin tapujos. Especialmente en si esa esfera privada que creemos tener existe ya: “En su mayor parte, nuestra privacidad se ha terminado y es casi imposible recuperarla”, sentencia Kleinroc. Es más, cree que los culpables en realidad somos todos: “La dimos voluntariamente, al menos en pequeñas fracciones, a lo largo del camino”. Kleinroc cree además que la gente es “inconsciente de hasta que punto organizaciones y grupos de individuos explotan sus datos para sus intereses”.
Thanks to Edward Snowden, we know the apparatus of repression has been covertly attached to the democratic state. However, our struggle to retain privacy is far from hopeless
In the third chapter of his History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon gave two reasons why the slavery into which the Romans had tumbled under Augustus and his successors left them more wretched than any previous human slavery. In the first place, Gibbon said, the Romans had carried with them into slavery the culture of a free people: their language and their conception of themselves as human beings presupposed freedom. And thus, says Gibbon, for a long time the Romans preserved the sentiments – or at least the ideas – of a freeborn people. In the second place, the empire of the Romans filled all the world, and when that empire fell into the hands of a single person, the world was a safe and dreary prison for his enemies. As Gibbon wrote, to resist was fatal, and it was impossible to fly.
The power of that Roman empire rested in its leaders’ control of communications. The Mediterranean was their lake. Across their European empire, from Scotland to Syria, they pushed roads that 15 centuries later were still primary arteries of European transportation. Down those roads the emperor marched his armies. Up those roads he gathered his intelligence. The emperors invented the posts to move couriers and messages at the fastest possible speed.
Using that infrastructure, with respect to everything that involved the administration of power, the emperor made himself the best-informed person in the history of the world.
That power eradicated human freedom. “Remember,” said Cicero to Marcellus in exile, “wherever you are, you are equally within the power of the conqueror.”
The empire of the United States after the second world war also depended upon control of communications. This was more evident when, a mere 20 years later, the United States was locked in a confrontation of nuclear annihilation with the Soviet Union. In a war of submarines hidden in the dark below the continents, capable of eradicating human civilisation in less than an hour, the rule of engagement was “launch on warning”. Thus the United States valued control of communications as highly as the Emperor Augustus. Its listeners too aspired to know everything.
We all know that the United States has for decades spent as much on its military might as all other powers in the world combined. Americans are now realising what it means that we applied to the stealing of signals and the breaking of codes a similar proportion of our resources in relation to the rest of the world.
The US system of listening comprises a military command controlling a large civilian workforce. That structure presupposes the foreign intelligence nature of listening activities. Military control was a symbol and guarantee of the nature of the activity being pursued. Wide-scale domestic surveillance under military command would have violated the fundamental principle of civilian control.
Instead what it had was a foreign intelligence service responsible to the president as military commander-in-chief. The chain of military command absolutely ensured respect for the fundamental principle “no listening here”. The boundary between home and away distinguished the permissible from the unconstitutional.
The distinction between home and away was at least technically credible, given the reality of 20th-century communications media, which were hierarchically organised and very often state-controlled.
When the US government chose to listen to other governments abroad – to their militaries, to their diplomatic communications, to their policymakers where possible – they were listening in a world of defined targets. The basic principle was: hack, tap, steal. We listened, we hacked in, we traded, we stole.
In the beginning we listened to militaries and their governments. Later we monitored the flow of international trade as far as it engaged American national security interests.