August 9, 2013
Oh, it's going to be one of these days…
The director of the NSA announced that the secretive intelligence agency plans to prevent future security breaches by replacing the position once held by whistleblower and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden with computers.
It's a case of t-shirt turns to reality, I see. OK. With all due respect to General Alexander, I'm not certain that's going to work out the way he intends. But maybe it will? If anyone has the resources to figure out the post-human computing infrastructure, it's probably the NSA.
That being said, this seems like a really bad HR move. I've been a big fan, professionally, of certain actions when letting people go. For instance, from the moment they get the phone call to head to their managers' office, they're treated as the enemy. No access to any IT resources at all. They don't get to log back into their machine - if they have personal files, they can send me an email and a list. There are thousands of bad things that can happen from having recently-fired people on their workstation, and no good ones.
Now, if you're a sysadmin for the NSA, and you've just heard that you've got a 90% chance of losing your job, you're probably not going to feel extra charitable toward your company. I'm not saying that more leaks will happen, and I'm certainly not advocating that (in part because I'm certain that's an arrestable offense or something), but I'm just saying. If you're worried about your people being the problem, it's probably not best to rile them up.
In any event, maybe you should ask General Beringer how he feels about computers taking over for people.
Hell, he'd piss on a spark plug if he thought it'd help.
Of course, it wouldn't be "one of those days" if that was all that was going on. Nope, the email service that Ed Snowden used, Lavabit, has fallen on the sword for its user base.
It shut down rather than comply with what it sees as an illegal government order to turn over the emails of its users. Presumably.
Apparently, it can't even tell us what happened:
I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations. I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what’s going on--the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests.
Lavabit has set up a legal defense fund to help defray the unknown costs of fighting an unknown battle.
Scarier? Silent Circle has done the same thing.
Ok, I'm not paranoid…well, alright, I'm a little paranoid, but it comes with the job. I'm not, let us say, unreasonably paranoid, but this doesn't sound good at all.
In mostly unrelated news, next Friday, I'll be catching the second half of the USENIX Security Symposium. If you're in the Washington DC area, you should too. It starts on Wednesday, but registration is still open, if you're interested in that sort of thing. And if you're not, you probably didn't read this far anyway ;-)