Friday, January 16, 2015

Government still focused more on site "misuse" than on real security concerns (EFF); more on social media "brainwashing"


Electronic Frontier Foundation has a valuable piece criticizing the Obama administration’s (along with David Cameron in Britain) plans to improve cybersecurity and monitor the Internet for homeland security.  Given recent current events, the collective need to “watch our backs” is indeed very understandable. 
   
The link for the piece by Mark Jaycox and Lee Tien is here  However, the focus of EFF criticism seems to focus in large part on attempts to enlarge the scope of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) in ways that could catch a naïve user and put him in legal trouble.  For example, sharing a password to a paid video site, because of piracy concerns, might lead to increased prison sentences.  Of scanning a site for vulnerabilities, in order to report on them, could be a crime.  (Somehow, some organizations, like Carnegie’s CERT, can do this legally;  maybe a web security company, with some kind of license, could, but a blogger or graduate student writing a paper on vulnerabilities could not.) All of this is disturbing, given the lesson of Aaron Swartz. 
     
The comments by Obama and Cameron on being able to decrypt messages used by terrorists were general and non-specific at the news conference today (story on abc here). The problem is “going dark” when security services are precluded from looking at encrypted messages.  Cameron and EU officials want US companies to offer "back doors" into their encryption algorithms for detection of terrorists.  
       
There has been talk on CNN recently over whether social media is dangerous to young adults who are easily radicalized.  This issue came up on AC360 last night.  But David Cameron suggested that many jihadists had grown up with opportunity and advantages and doubted that radicalization was as simple as “brainwashing” on social media.  

Timothy Egan has a piece "Your Free Speech, and Mine, in the New York Times, here.  There really is a connection between free speech and acceptance of individualism, and the inequality that goes with innovation. 

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