Vulnerabilities / Threats
4/19/2017
02:25 PM
Kelly Sheridan
Kelly Sheridan
Commentary
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
Google+
RSS
E-Mail vvv
100%
0%

Snowden Says Mass Surveillance Programs 'Are About Power'

Edward Snowden shared his views of the implications of mass surveillance programs and the government's objective in implementing them.

There's a lot of uncertainty and debate around mass surveillance programs. Why do they exist? Who is interested in all of this data, and what do they want to do with it? These are a few of the questions explored during an event entitled "Democracy Under Surveillance: A Conversation with Edward Snowden," held yesterday at the College of William & Mary .

The discussion was moderated by Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to US Secretary of State Colin Powell, and distinguished professor of government and public policy at W&M.

"Surveillance technologies have outpaced democratic controls," said Snowden, who joined the event via satellite. "A generation ago, surveillance was extremely expensive … there was a natural limitation because governments had to spend extraordinary sums to track individual people."

Today, the dynamic is reversed. One person in front of a monitor can track "an unimaginably large" number of people, he continued. The NSA's surveillance program, deployed in secret and with "serious constitutional implications," he said, is an example.

To illustrate the sheer amount of data the NSA has gathered, Snowden - who is in exile in Russia after copying and leaking classified information from the spy agency - showed a photo of the organization's Mission Data Repository, originally named the Massive Data Repository. The troves of data garnered through surveillance is held "just in case."

While the US government and others view such surveillance measures as necessary for security, Snowden offered the flip-side argument.

"Perhaps this is true," Snowden said. "But we should always be aware that we may not get to choose what it is we're actually being protected from." He urged helathy skepticism of government efforts. As part of his discussion on mass surveillance programs, and their infringement on constitutional rights, he posed the question: do these programs really protect people from harm? His answer: mass surveillance in the US has never made a concrete difference in saving lives.

"These programs are about power," he argued during the event. For more than a decade, he claimed, mass surveillance has not countered terrorism, despite being justified on that premise.  

When asked by a W&M student whether increased surveillance could ever be justified, Snowden said he is less critical of targeted surveillance, in the event those watching use "the minimum amount of surveillance needed to achieve goals."

Targeted surveillance, he explained, has a "centuries-long track record" of saving lives. If someone has, for example, been associated with a terrorist group and demonstrated efforts to plan attacks, it's worth gathering information, Snowden said.

Related Content:

Kelly Sheridan is Associate Editor at Dark Reading. She started her career in business tech journalism at Insurance & Technology and most recently reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft and business IT. Sheridan earned her BA at Villanova University. View Full Bio
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
Security Operations and IT Operations: Finding the Path to Collaboration
A wide gulf has emerged between SOC and NOC teams that's keeping both of them from assuring the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of IT systems. Here's how experts think it should be bridged.
Flash Poll
New Best Practices for Secure App Development
New Best Practices for Secure App Development
The transition from DevOps to SecDevOps is combining with the move toward cloud computing to create new challenges - and new opportunities - for the information security team. Download this report, to learn about the new best practices for secure application development.
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2013-7445
Published: 2015-10-15
The Direct Rendering Manager (DRM) subsystem in the Linux kernel through 4.x mishandles requests for Graphics Execution Manager (GEM) objects, which allows context-dependent attackers to cause a denial of service (memory consumption) via an application that processes graphics data, as demonstrated b...

CVE-2015-4948
Published: 2015-10-15
netstat in IBM AIX 5.3, 6.1, and 7.1 and VIOS 2.2.x, when a fibre channel adapter is used, allows local users to gain privileges via unspecified vectors.

CVE-2015-5660
Published: 2015-10-15
Cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerability in eXtplorer before 2.1.8 allows remote attackers to hijack the authentication of arbitrary users for requests that execute PHP code.

CVE-2015-6003
Published: 2015-10-15
Directory traversal vulnerability in QNAP QTS before 4.1.4 build 0910 and 4.2.x before 4.2.0 RC2 build 0910, when AFP is enabled, allows remote attackers to read or write to arbitrary files by leveraging access to an OS X (1) user or (2) guest account.

CVE-2015-6333
Published: 2015-10-15
Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) 1.1j allows local users to gain privileges via vectors involving addition of an SSH key, aka Bug ID CSCuw46076.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
In past years, security researchers have discovered ways to hack cars, medical devices, automated teller machines, and many other targets. Dark Reading Executive Editor Kelly Jackson Higgins hosts researcher Samy Kamkar and Levi Gundert, vice president of threat intelligence at Recorded Future, to discuss some of 2016's most unusual and creative hacks by white hats, and what these new vulnerabilities might mean for the coming year.