Home > cdnpoli, CDNTech, Digital Policy, NSA, Politics, Privacy > Lack of Privacy Is A Matter Of National Security

Lack of Privacy Is A Matter Of National Security

With the recent cyber attacks on Twitter and the New York Times this week by Syrian forces, just how safe are the US and Canadian networks from global cyber threats?

Privacy has emerged as a big issue globally over the past several months regarding NSA snooping activities.  In fact former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden in a recent chat with the Guardian news paper stated “Unfortunately, endpoint security is so terrifically weak that NSA can frequently find ways around it.” Endpoints of the networks is specifically the users system.

Many in the IT solutions field protect our clients from threats coming from foreign governments and other interests.  Over the years there has been a huge explosion of mobile app development that has lead to open development platforms with little to no oversight on the coding of these apps.  It’s often left to the community or end user to detect malicious apps and report them.  By then it’s too late.

In the field of IT, privacy essentially means security of data flow.  If you are not concerned about privacy, you’re less likely to be concerned about the security of your network. There are virtually countless examples of high profile cases in which big corporations are not putting forth the needed upgrades to protect sensitive data. The most recent one that comes to mind is the Playstation Network hack of 2011, where hackers gained entry into the network exposing users private and financial information, since the network was using a very outdated method of PHP security.

I know many who work in the health care, and financial sectors where privacy and security is essential to operations.  The biggest threat right now is coming from social media, and corporations involved in big data collection, such as Google.  Hospitals and banks right now are hiring outside security experts to teach employee’s of the current danger of the mobile and social media app environment.  Facebook games and apps are usually sighted as one of the worse security risks, since many act as open gateways to malware, spyware, malicious code and collection of personal sensitive information due to the lack of coding standards or even developer background checks Facebook is well known for.  If the NSA can find ways around encrypted communications because our endpoints (users) are not secured and easily gain entry through the installation of malware in social media apps, that means our cyber war adversaries can as well.

Politicians have been very reluctant to bring in tougher and stricter privacy controls, in large part because they don’t want to inhibit the use of data collection which is worth big money. However, by doing so leaves our networks open for abuse and attack.  If the government isn’t thinking about securing our private online communications, than why should businesses be obliged to spend the money and upgrade their network security?

Due to this lack of legislation and oversight on our personal information, businesses concerned (not many) about privacy and security are coining a term called B.Y.O.D. (Bring Your Own Developer).  That’s essentially due to the fact that right now no outside coder or app developer can be fully trusted to provide any sense of privacy or security due to the age of big data.  In fact many privacy advocates have stated that businesses right now factor in the penalties of  privacy violations (because they are so small in Canada and abroad) as a matter of a regular business expense.  The lack of privacy oversight has got so out of hand that it has left a strategic national defense asset (our Canadian data networks) at huge risk of cyber attack.

The NSA leaks have given some insight on Canadian participation of intelligence gathering. Canada is part of a “five eyes” intelligence alliance with the US. The mass misuse of big data collection by the NSA has exposed in itself a massive gaping hole in national security which is now very much in plain sight of law makers.  How secure we become, depends on how the privacy implications of this mass misue and abuse of public trust by the intelligence community plays out in updates to privacy legislation if any at all.  Will the Harper government do the right thing and put in strict and meaningful penalties to those that break privacy laws, or are we going to continue down this road where public apathy towards privacy issues continues to be exploited by our adversaries?

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