Internet Surveillance is Controversial When in Untrusted Hands

The primary issue on the topic of internet surveillance is probably not that it exists, but how it is used and by whom. As we edge towards 2014 we see a Big Brother system in place far beyond George Orwell’s wildest dreams. The NSA scandal continues to top headlines and seems to be a neverending point of contention amongst the broad public and corporations.

However, let’s take a look at both sides of internet surveillance, casting aside the obvious intrusive acts of wire tapping, email hijacking and GPS tracking.

The biggest and most notable case study is 9/11 in New York. Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller openly stated last August that 9/11 could have been avoided with NSAs surveillance system:

“I think there’s a good chance that we would have prevented at least part of 9/11,” Mueller said in an interview on CNN. “In other words, there were four planes and almost 20, 19 persons involved, and I think we would have had a much better chance of identifying those individuals who were contemplating that attack … by the various programs that have been put in place since then.”

Specifically, the current NSA surveillance of the internet allows the US Government to look deep into the ‘dark web’, picking up on unindexed forums, IRC channels and chatrooms. Many of these locations are where adversaries, hate groups and cyber criminals gather to discuss attacks. The reason they use underground platforms is that most do not have the resources or communications channels to build an organized hit locally. These ‘dark web’ locations get like-minded individuals together to discuss and build strategies, sharing tools, resources and contacts.

The Trust Factor

Many government intelligence agencies lack in one thing – good PR. Whether this is because of obvious ethical violations over the years or simply bad public relations, I will not speculate on this. However, we now see that international polls criticising government surveillance, despite their best attempt to “prove it is for the greater good” is not calming. The reason is simple, they are not trusted.

Counter-attack requires equal or greater defense technology

Coming back to internet surveillance we are now posed with a new problem. As the number of effective hacks, security breaches and data theft grows, what option does the CEO, Board of Directors, Shareholders or investors have when it comes to protecting themselves?

To date, very little.

Most companies hire security consultant after security consultant to test their vulnerabilities and make changes, upgrades and more. But not know what the attackers methodology is or what new piece of technology they will use for their cyber attack, without intelligence it is just a guessing game. A security breach can occur through cyber intrusion or by the placement of malware into the physical operating systems of a company. Every day, new technologies are devised to break corporate or government security walls.

Knowledge is Power

Imagine you had setup a global business, sensitive data transferring from Europe to the US, Russia to Australia constantly. If this structure was the core element of your strategic business operation you would have a lot to lose if this was breached. Investors would spit, shareholders would run and clients would move away in fear.

So now imagine if you had a depth of intelligence which could forewarn you of such an attack, allow you time to put security provisions in place to counter that attack and save your business from shame.

This is where internet surveillance has its benefits and, when used to track unethical activities, can save hundreds or thousands of jobs, and millions in losses.

Summary

Technology has developed to the degree that people want to solve new problems. Internet surveillance, global intelligence operations and other systems used to stop a crisis itself are not unethical unless they are used for unethical purposes.

So how do we make an honest person out of everyone? Well that is a question for the Greek Philosophers. Feel free to head over to their website 🙂

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