Surveillance or Security? : The Risks Posed by New Wiretapping Technologies
Digital communications are the lifeblood of modern society. We “meet up” online, tweet our reactions millions of times a day, connect through social networking rather than in person. Large portions of business and commerce have moved to the Web, and much of our critical infrastructure, including the electric power grid, is controlled online. This reliance on information systems leaves us highly exposed and vulnerable to cyberattack. Despite this, U.S. law enforcement and national security policy remain firmly focused on wiretapping and surveillance. But, as cybersecurity expert Susan Landau argues in Surveillance or Security? , the old surveillance paradigms do not easily fit the new technologies. By embedding eavesdropping mechanisms into communication technology itself, we are building tools that could be turned against us.
Such attacks have already happened. Law-enforcement wiretapping capabilities built into the Greek Vodafone network were subverted and used to listen in to communications at the highest levels of the Greek government; a system built for wiretapping Internet-based communications was shown to have serious flaws that would allow a similar subversion. Landau argues that in embarking on an unprecedented effort to build surveillance capabilities deeply into communications infrastructure, the U.S. government is opting for short-term security and creating dangerous long-term risks.
Landau describes what makes communications security hard, warrantless wiretapping and the role of electronic surveillance in the war on terror, the economic threats posed by electronic spying, and the risks created by embedding wiretapping into communications networks. How can we get communications security right? Landau offers a set of principles to govern wiretap policy that will allow us to protect our national security as well as our freedom.