“My primary worry about contests like this is that people will think a positive result means something. If a bunch of students can break into a system after a couple of weeks of attempts, we know it’s insecure.But just because a system withstands a test like this doesn’t mean it’s secure.“
“Surveillance infrastructure is easy to export. Once surveillance capabilities are built into Skype or Gmail or your BlackBerry, it’s easy for more totalitarian countries to demand the same access; after all, the technical work has already been done.
Western companies such as Siemens, Nokia and Secure Computing built Iran’s surveillance infrastructure, and U.S. companies like L-1 Identity Solutions helped build China’s electronic police state. The next generation of worldwide citizen control will be paid for by countries like the United States.
We should be embarrassed to export eavesdropping capabilities. Secure, surveillance-free systems protect the lives of people in totalitarian countries around the world. They allow people to exchange ideas even when the government wants to limit free exchange. They power citizen journalism, political movements and social change. For example, Twitter’s anonymity saved the lives of Iranian dissidents — anonymity that many governments want to eliminate.
Yes, communications technologies are used by both the good guys and the bad guys. But the good guys far outnumber the bad guys, and it’s far more valuable to make sure they’re secure than it is to cripple them on the off chance it might help catch a bad guy. It’s like the FBI demanding that no automobiles drive above 50 mph, so they can more easily pursue getaway cars. It might or might not work — but, regardless, the cost to society of the resulting slowdown would be enormous.”
The insightful Rebecca MacKinnon makes a great point in her post,
“I too thought Clinton’s speech was a very welcome – even exciting – commitment by the Obama administration to advance and protect a single, free and open Internet. […] I think the toughest work will be in coordinating U.S. domestic and foreign policies so that you don’t have some policies advancing Internet freedom while other policies – especially on copyright, child protection, crime, and terror – end up sending a very different kind of message about American priorities. It’s easy to criticize Iran and China for censorship but much trickier to work with Italy, France, and a wide range of other U.S. allies and close trade partners to ensure that policies and laws surrounding Internet regulation and governance don’t end up being counterproductive, despite being well-intentioned in the short term.”
While the sites were obviously an embarrassment, there were several avenues to address the issue. Officials could have filed a complaint with the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, which manages the dot-ca domain (both sites used dot-ca addresses). Alternatively, they could have turned to the courts for an order to either shut down the sites or suspend the domain name registrations. Instead, the phishing claim effectively substituted one hoax for another and, in the process, undermined the trust in a global system designed to guard against identity theft.
While the western world applauds the internet as a force for empowerment, liberation and democracy, authoritarian governments in the east are working behind the scenes to manipulate the messages it conveys, says Evgeny Morozov
Note: Don’t know where Evgeny gets the stats, but having an army of 300,000 people leaving positive comments about the Chinese government for 50 cents per comment seems like a cheap way to manipulate public opinion. Sadly effective.