Dateline: An undisclosed location in the Land of the Free

Truth be told, the usual Washington suspects – NSA, CIA, FBI, DEA and all of their friends – are the pacesetters of cybercrime.

Yes, I know they’re supposedly tasked with stopping cybercrime, but that as they used to say, is a load of malarkey.

I have no doubt that they catch the occasional crook, but, at the same time, they are training twenty times that number every day. These people are the Pied Pipers of cybercrime.

For those who don’t recall the legend of the Pied Piper, he had the ability to make people follow him by playing his flute… and he could use it to good or bad ends with equal effect.

How encryption works… and why it matters

The “walls” that protect data on the Internet are called encryption, and the powers that be are fighting hard to break them down. To break all of them down.

For the past decade of more, the NSA and others have been paying and threatening tech companies to compromise their security.

For example, we learned some time ago that the NSA paid RSA, a producer of encryption, ten million dollars to weaken their products. It is clear that the NSA and their cronies are majoring in weakening your walls and doors.

And, just because it reveals a long­lost truth, let me pass ­along something one of these “protectors” said about encryption not too long ago:

We don’t let them have front doors we can’t break down, so why would we let them have encryption we can’t break?

You might want to chew on that one for a bit.

There’s actually a lot more abuse than we’ll take time to cover, but I want you to see a few of these cases, so you get a feel for what’s going on. You don’t think they’ll tell you on the TV news, do you?

Technologists and cryptographers have long warned that you can’t design a secure system that will enable law enforcement—and only law enforcement—to bypass the encryption. The nature of a back door is that it is also a vulnerability, and if discovered, hackers or foreign governments might be able to exploit it, too.

And from the other side of the pond, we get news that the Prime Minister of the UK is at war with encryption. His eminence says this:

Are we going to allow a means of communications which it simply isn’t possible to read? My answer to that question is: No, we must not.

And then we have the esteemed Mayor of London saying this:

I’m not interested in this civil liberties stuff. If they’re a threat, I want their emails and calls listened to.

So, who is a threat? Well, whoever they say, of course.

They can count on a hundred TV newsreaders slavishly following their lead, as well as a thousand obedient newspaper editors. If the enforcers call you a threat, you’re a threat. Their word is the only word required. Period.

We also recently learned that the FBI wants to aggressively hack more and more private computers. As the National Journal exposed, a judicial advisory panel approved a rule change that will broaden the FBI’s hacking authority.

The government’s response to questions about the constitutionality of this – as if they cared – was pretty standard. In short, ‘we’ve already been doing it, and it didn’t kill you, so let us do more of it.’

In government ­speak, that more of the same will not result in any search or seizures not already permitted under current law.

I could go on, of course; these things are happening all across the world, with the US and UK leading the way.

I’ve been warning audiences for years that a hundred varieties of criminals are following the NSA’s lead. If you were a crook, wouldn’t you pay attention to how the best crooks operated?

If the best crooks were opening up vulnerabilities, wouldn’t you look to exploit them? After all, they’re just sitting there open! Would we expect a traditional burglar to ignore doors that had been blown off of their hinges?

So long as the NSA and the rest knock down walls and doors, we can be certain that garden­ variety criminals will take advantage of the openings they create. To expect anything else would be a little crazy, wouldn’t it?

So, you can either protect yourself, or you can ignore the threat and pretend that it doesn’t exist.

Most people ignore these threats. After all, articles like this one will never show up on ABC Tonight. And people know that they can always excuse themselves later with standard excuses like Everyone else did it too!

The thieves and the overlords, of course – all of them – hope that you choose denial.

Paul Rosenberg
Last updated: Aug 19, 2021 at 8:34AM