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The internet is a "US colony"


By Shona Ghosh

Posted on 25 Oct 2013 at 09:20

Web users are vulnerable to mass online spying because the US has too much power online, according to a leading security researcher.

Discussing revelations of US spying at his LinuxCon keynote speech, F-Secure’s chief research officer Mikko Hypponen argued that US dominance over the internet had come at the expense of democracy.

Hypponen quoted Tenable's chief security officer, Marcus Ranum, who has previously described the internet as "a US colony".

"We’re back in the age of colonisation," said Hypponen. "We should think about the Americans as our masters."

We’re back in the age of colonisation. We should think about the Americans as our masters

Hypponen’s comments come as a debate rages over the merits of mass spying versus the right to privacy, following the revelations by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Hypponen gave a point-by-point attack against assertions that online spying was necessary, arguing that its dominance over the web gave the US too much power over foreign countries.

He claimed that while the majority of European politicians likely use US services every day, most US politicians and business leaders don’t, for example, use Swedish-based cloud services. "It’s an imbalanced situation," he said. "All the major services are based in the US."

Since Hypponen’s comments, it has emerged that the US National Security Agency may have bugged a phone belonging to German chancellor Angela Merkel. According to the files leaked by Snowden, the NSA may have spied on emails sent by former Mexican president Felipe Calderon.

Open source

Hypponen also slammed European tech companies for selling out when US companies came calling. "When we have the rare success story from Europe, where there are European-made closed communications systems, they typically end up being sold to the US," he said.

"Skype used to be secure and end-to-end encrypted,” he added. "Now Skype is owned by Microsoft, it’s no longer end-to-end encrypted. It’s taking something secure and weakening it."

Hypponen said a solution could lie in open-source systems. "Countries should try to use their own systems," he said. "To fight these problems, use open source – open clouds, open operating systems."

Several security researchers have touted open-source systems as a secure alternative to commercial software, arguing that it’s harder for governments to install backdoors.

"Closed-source software is easier for the NSA to backdoor than open-source software," wrote security expert Bruce Schneier. "Systems relying on master secrets are vulnerable to the NSA, through either legal or more clandestine means."

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User comments

Democracy shemocracy!

The Finnish gent is probably correct, but why are we supposed to think this is some kind of revelation?

The IT business today is run, to a greater extent, by a few highly ideological US companies, imbued with their own take on "Libertarian" values.
Boiled down these amount to:
'anything goes, as long as it doesn't hurt our personal and commercial interests'.

Of course the USA spies on everybody all the time (including our leaders). Even pre-Snowden it wasn't a big secret: we just know more of the detail now.
Eisenhower in the 1950's warned the USA of the increasing power of the "Military Industrial Complex" - essentially Big Business and the Military working together to "run" as much of the USA, then the World as they can get away with. His most dystopian visions have proven far too optimistic.
USA's stranglehold on the Internet, and much of the relevant technology, and the use made of it by the MIC (think Apple, Google, IBM etc) completely predictable and highly unwelcome.

By wittgenfrog on 25 Oct 2013

"Black Helicopters"

Oh, and all those "conspiracy theories" don't sound quite so daft now, do they... :-)

By wittgenfrog on 25 Oct 2013

nothing learned

So, now that we accept that major national IT infrastructure corporations are more than likely in cahoots with their national government's security apparatus, why is the UK government so hell bent on opening up our telecoms infrastructure to the Chinese? I love them dearly and have nothing aginst them, but if I am going to be spied on I'd still rather it was by the US than by China.

By martindaler on 25 Oct 2013

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