Dan Gillmor finally says what I’ve been thinking about the Heartbleed bug in OpenSSL, which if you haven’t heard may have endangered every account password you value. Or it may not, depends on what you do on the internet. If you don’t buy, sell, or bank, and your email doesn’t contain anything valuable or embarrassing, then you’re probably okay.
So who do we know for certain has been exerting active efforts to weaken internet security for several years?
…given how vital encryption is to online safety, we have to assume that the best and best-funded minds in online surveillance and hacking have been relentlessly probing OpenSSL over the years of its existence.
If the NSA has known about Heartbleed for a long time — or even a short time — then the surveillance-staters have possessed a kind a skeleton key to entire swaths of the internet. Part of the NSA’s mission, supposedly, is to protect us from things like this very bug. But it’s clear, based on the Snowden revelations, that the government’s concern for our individual privacy and security takes a distant back seat to its ability to spy on anyone and everyone.
So don’t be surprised to learn someday that the NSA and/or other western security agencies have been exploiting Heartbleed at home and abroad without bothering to alert us. Nor, for that matter, should you be shocked to learn at some point that well-heeled criminal cyber-gangs or the Chinese government’s talented hackers spotted the bug before white-hat hackers revealed it.
The raison d’etre of the US intelligence community is global economic advantage for, not to say dominance by, the largest American capitalist endeavors. Yet in this role it has failed miserably, creating security problems that are certain to be found and exploited, with financial costs that will be disproportionately born by exactly those corporations widely considered the avatars of next-generation American success. There can be no more convincing demonstration of a surveillance state run amok, cut loose even from its at best amoral principles and expanding simply because it can; and unless we do something to change its capabilities it will soon become the ultimate authoritarian regime operating on purely mechanical judgments and without any sense of human values. The SIngularity would be preferable.