Our Paranoia Was Optimistic

“Orwell was an optimist.” That’s what security researcher Mikko Hypponen said in his Ted talk.

Why did Mikko say that? It can’t be out of ignorance. He’s one of the world’s leading computer security researchers. In fact, he’s one of the guys who let the world know about Stuxnet (research that if you want to see how scary hackers can be).

He said it because he’s a computer security expert and what the United States has done scares him. 

In fact, as I did research into information security for ALGORITHM, my movie about computer hackers, I found a lot of infosec professionals don’t sleep well. They know what’s out there. They see the world most people have no idea exists.

When they hear that, according to Wired, the NSA gathers all internet traffic and stores it in a facility in rural Utah, they worry. They know it’s possible. They know what it means. The fact that that kind of activity is expected of the NSA doesn’t really help.

But, it’s not expected of the CIA, who did the same thing. Only, the CIA was more targeted. According to CNN, the CIA focused on the United States Senate. And they got caught.

According to privacy researched Christopher Soghoian, the FBI is also doing it. They have a dedicated team whose sole job is to hack into computers. They have the ability to remotely activate microphones, get documents, browsing history, and just about anything else you can think of, from computers, phones, and laptops. And they can do all this without the owner of the aforementioned device(s) knowledge.

That, by itself is very scary. But, U.S. President Obama said that it’s being used with very strong constraints in place that he feels comfortable with.

And then there’s the Snowden Revelation of Tuesday, April 12, 2014. The U.S. government isn’t just targeting “terrorists”. According to The Guardian, they’re targeting human rights groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Why would they do this? 

Before Snowden’s Revelations began might have been dismissed as too conspiratorial. If the U.S. is violating human rights, and according to the movie Dirty Wars and Control Room, it absolutely is, then the U.S. government has reason to fear these groups.

Would the United Nations, the global government, if there is such a thing, have the authority or even the power to stop the United States from violating human rights, should such things actually be true? It’s the age-old question, “Who watches the watchers?”