Edward Snowden Introduces a New Spy-Catching App, and Here’s How It Works

From whistleblower to app developer, Edward Snowden is now a tech founder.


In a YouTube video posted by the Freedom of the Press Foundation’s account, Snowden introduced his new app Haven. The open-source project is a collaboration between the FPF and The Guardian Project. Snowden said he led the FPF side of the joint effort.

The former National Security Agency contractor, who has taken refuge in Russia since exposing the U.S. government’s surveillance programs by disclosing classified material back in 2013, has made it his mission to fight for cyber privacy. He serves as the board president of the FPF. The group was founded by fellow whistleblower Daniel Ellsburg, who in 1971 leaked key secrets about the U.S. government’s involvement in Vietnam with the Pentagon Papers.

This week’s launch represents one of Snowden’s most concrete efforts yet to accomplish his goal of helping those who need it most become more secure, as the app is designed to protect the data of investigative journalists and humanitarian workers who may find themselves in the crosshairs of government spies.

According to the announcement, “Haven is for people who need a way to protect their personal spaces and possessions without compromising their own privacy.” Haven is aimed to catch intruders spying on personal data.

The Android-specific app uses “on-device sensors” to monitor and protect physical spaces like homes or offices. For example, if someone breaks into a room with an Android running the Haven app, a photo will be taken of the intruder and sent to alert the app’s user.

The way it works is by combining the smartphone’s sensors with secure communication apps like Signal and Tor. This is how Haven “prevents the worst kind of people from silencing citizens without getting caught in the act.”

“We designed Haven for investigative journalists, human rights defenders, and people at risk of forced disappearance to create a new kind of herd immunity,” the Freedom of the Press Foundation says in the post.

In the video announcement, the Russia-based Snowden explains Haven is a tool aimed at activists and others at security risk.

So far, Haven has received mixed reactions on social media reactions, with some questioning its security or potential ulterior motives given Snowden’s past. Others find the idea of Haven to be useful, but aren’t sure of the logistics regarding physical privacy.

The app is currently available on Android, with plans to expand to other platforms depending on volunteer contributions to its open source.

Edward Snowden Reveals Intricate Details about Earth’s Innermost Inhabitants. 

Among the groundbreaking disclosures forwarded by Edward Snowden to humanity, one speaks of the possibility of the inner earth being populated by an advanced civilization that had been monitoring us ever since the beginning.

By some he’s considered a traitor, but some think of him as a hero. Edward Snowden had the courage to reveal secrets that the world deserved to know, and among the relevant facts made public, few are told regarding UFOs and extraterrestrial beings.

According to some documents copied from the CIA, the U.S. government has long known about the existence of highly intelligent species, more advanced than humanity. While we were busy gazing the starts for an otherworldly race of humanoids with their disc-shaped UFOs, they were in fact under our very noses, probably for millions of years, and far ahead of us in technological development.

Taking a closer look at Earth’s geology and we’ll see its rigid crust, a rather thin layer of rock that divides the continents and the ocean floor. The crust sits on tectonic plates that shift slowly in time in the lithosphere. At the bottom of the tectonic plates, around 80 to 100 kilometers below the surface, the asthenosphere begins.

Earth’s inner flow occurs in the asthenosphere, and the convection phenomenon at this level is believed to assist the perpetual motion of tectonic plates, but the exact method and visual aspect of the frontier between the lithosphere and asthenosphere is not yet clear. The CIA stocks data tracking systems and deep-sea sonar imagery, but the high-level confidentiality status prohibits the scientists’ access in the absence of specific security clearance.

This type of intelligent Homo Sapiens may have evolved differently, considering the much more stable climate inside the planet. The general consensus is that we’re just ants from their point of view, and there is a small chance that they’ll intervene in our world’s affairs, of those from the surface who struggle with their not so beneficent existence.

So if you have an an alien civilization trying to listen for other civilizations, or our civilization trying to listen for aliens, there’s only one small period in the development of their society when all of their communication will be sent via the most primitive and most unprotected means.

So when we think about everything that we’re hearing through our satellites or everything that they’re hearing from our civilization (if there are indeed aliens out there), all of their communications are encrypted by default.

“So what we are hearing, that’s actually an alien television show, or you know, a phone call… is indistinguishable to us from cosmic microwave background radiation.”

 Having these uncertainties in reference to Earth’s inner structure and layer appearance leaves room for serious suspicions, since the Earth’s mantle could provide better living conditions than its surface. Jules Verne may have been onto something big that might prove to be as real as it can get, while we are taught to believe that everything related to fiction is rejected by the dull reality we live in.

But is this really the case? Is the material realm that we live in fully explored and understood by humanity’s scientific tools? Or is it rather a mirage from which we cannot escape unless we open our eyes and see beyond the illusions?

Despite the fact we had no problems with the occupants of the hallow earth so far, or recorded none that we would know of, the military are considering detonating a nuclear warhead that will seal the deep caves which connect the surface of the Earth with the settlers of the mantle, ultimately preventing the alleged passage from opening again. At least that’s what Snowden revelead in a recent interview.

The idea of our governments irrationally intervening into such important matters is not a foreign idea. NASA nuked the moon in 2009, destroying whatever alien outpost was located out there, and if you remember the Colares UFO incident where the military had gathered unquestionable proof of extraterrestrial existence but afterwards decided to evacuated the local population and set the dust on the entire report until recently. Even the US military officials warned about little green men and the threath they’ll pose in the near future.

With all these neglijent moves, the inner earth’s inhabitants might be up to something. With a wave of mysterious sounds that were heard all over the world, including the one from the Caribbeans that can be heard from outer space, there’s a good chance our intra-terrestrial neighbors are up to something.

If we’re going to assist to a clash between the earthly powers and the mythical dwellers of the far reaches of the Earth we’re yet to find out. Hopefully, this historic period of hasty transition will bring full disclosure for the human race. Everyone deserves to be aware and understand what’s going on.

How the “Anti-Vaccine” Movement Threatens Us All

Step back and take a good look. It’s a full blown, parent on parent brawl. I’m struck with an urgency that the vaccine discussion is perilously off track and acutely needs correction. The anti-vaccine controversy isn’t really about disease, public health, science, autism, or chronic illness. It’s not even about vaccines.

It’s about the role of government in our lives

As parents face off and hurl epithets, colossal special interests are having a field day codifying a set of laws that are systematically and comprehensively taking away our fundamental rights. It’s a massive overreach.

Will you grant government bureaucrats carte blanche to define and ultimately direct the education and welfare of your children across a broad spectrum of issues, and to allow your children to be taken away if you do not comply?


Yes, that’s exactly what this is about.

So stop saying whether you vaccinate

It doesn’t matter. And acting as if it does is a big part of the problem. Whether you choose all, some, or no vaccines, it’s way past time to quit publicly disclosing your family’s personal medical information as a badge of honor. Just because other people are asking doesn’t mean that you should do it.

There are myriad reasons that factor into each family’s decision, relating to matters that are simply no one else’s business. You shouldn’t have to explain or justify any of them. You shouldn’t open yourself to the possibility of needing to explain or justify any of them. It’s entirely feasible to have an educated and thoughtful discussion on vaccination without oversharing. In fact, it’s probably more effective that way.

For a bit of context only. Should couples with a family history of Down’s syndrome be permitted to have children? Should people reveal blood test results that provide a very early warning of Alzheimer’s? Or how about genetic markers whose expression will make you a less desirable employee, mate, or insurance risk? And so on.

This is precisely the point. If we don’t treat this critically important decision as the intensely private affair that it is, then we co-create a culture in which it’s legitimate, then appropriate, and ultimately imperative for others — bureaucrats, doctors, schools, employers, reporters, neighbors — to ask and then tell us what we must think and do. 

Discuss the topic responsibly

I’m definitely not saying we shouldn’t talk about vaccination. It’s very clear that this topic needs to be discussed a lot.

Let’s cultivate the knowledge, discipline, and mastery to talk about vaccination responsibly. This means doing the work to be in possession of the facts. Don’t exaggerate or wing it. Present the issues as someone who can stand in another’s shoes. Speak in a manner that is as calm and unemotional and even detached as possible. Don’t proselytize. And in the end, if necessary, agree to disagree.

This requires far more than just “book” learning. For many of us, it means a commitment to work on ourselves and to step away from activism as a form of therapy. Because, let’s face it, when the conversation gets tough, it’s far easier to say what we do and walk away and allow that to be the ultimate line in the stand.

It’s a deliberate distraction… it’s theater

Announcing whether you vaccinate sets the entire stage.

Parents judging parents is high drama. Parents feel sorry for those who aren’t doing their own research. Other parents, in turn, pity those who are looking for something to blame. None of us has the big picture. We are all actors, playing into a narrative. But it’s more than a narrative. It’s a play. It’s theater. And like most forms of popular entertainment, there’s a purpose.

It’s meant to distract the masses. That’s all of us, people.

We seemingly understand our roles and deliver them with brio. But have we really thought it through?

What are the other roles? It’s not our stage. It’s not our script. There are actors and directors we never see. Who are the producers? Do we agree with the moral of the story?

And here’s the kicker. The whole thing wouldn’t work without our participation. We aren’t just complicit. We’re indispensable. We’re on set and the cameras are rolling. We’re advancing someone else’s agenda.

It’s all enabled by the belief that we must share a private decision.

Backdrop #1: The anti-vaccine bucket

Every single person who declares that there’s something more to vaccination than meets the eye is unceremoniously dropped into the “anti-vaccine bucket.”

The name notwithstanding, it’s a rather nice bucket. It should really be called the “Green Bucket” or the “Wellness Bucket” or, yes, the “Fearless Bucket.” It’s filled with smart, passionate people that we enjoy hanging out with and learning from. We increasingly spend our time with people in the bucket. We go to doctors in the bucket. We buy products from businesses in the bucket. We work to make the bucket bigger. We fundraise for the bucket. We’re proud that we’re in the bucket.

We become attached to the inevitability that, one day, everyone will understand the wisdom of our bucket.

Backdrop #2: The conflict

We are perplexed by people who aren’t in the bucket… the many parents with no urgency to investigate before dutifully trudging to the pediatrician with their infant, baby, toddler, child, or teenager in tow and doing as they’re told by the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics. How can they not explore the science that links vaccines and their ingredients to chronic, autoimmune, or neurodevelopmental disorders, which already affect half of US children?

Many of these “no research” parents and their children are important to us — family, dear friends, loved ones. We venture outside the bucket to recruit and teach them. But most won’t give us the time of day here. They won’t read the books we recommend; watch the movies and docuserieswe want to share; or attend the events we beg them to consider. Some threaten to take drastic measures if we don’t shut up. We’ve lost precious relationships over this issue.

It makes us sad. Maybe we get frustrated or angry. We may even feel that their unwillingness to engage in this issue is now threatening our own families’ well-being. And, hey, some of these people are, gasp, actually in the bucket but pretend they’re not. That’s not right! Silence isn’t neutrality. It’s tacit approval.

But what can we do? We can’t enter another person’s will or change her path. It’s a relief, in a way. Live and let live. No one agrees on everything. No family is an island, after all. Better to quietly take an exemption and allow the movement to grow organically. Trust the unfoldment. We go back into the bucket and do our own thing.

Backdrop #3: The masses tune out

This is a messy debate with exceptionally high stakes involving all parents and our children plus the federal government, 50 state governments, the pharmaceutical industry, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, thousands of medical doctors, and virtually all daycare centers and schools in the country.

Isn’t it odd that there is absolutely no forum for thoughtful, methodical, respectful engagement designed to raise the issues, hear the concerns, and advance the discussion?


And isn’t it odd that this acrimonious thing just won’t go away?

As a result, the topic is experienced by most people as random, chaotic, confusing, and above all, unsafe for general conversation. It’s a hodgepodge of medical protocol, old science, new science, history, media headlines, conventional wisdom, individual stories, angry accusations, fear, psychology, habit, wishful thinking, and a deep, abiding desire to carve out some certainty in an uncertain world:

Vaccine injury is exceedingly rare.

There’s been a three-fold increase in vaccine doses since 1989.

It’s genetic. Most people are vaccinated and nothing happens.

The mercury-based vaccine preservative, thimerosal, is neurotoxic.

We need herd immunity or we’ll be overrun with diseases.

There’s a chronic enterocolitis that may be related to neurodevelopmental impairment that appears after administration of the combination MMR vaccine in some children.

Some children can’t be vaccinated.

Injection of aluminum adjuvants can overcome genetic resistance to autoimmunity.

Children are a vector for disease.

There’s a risk of DNA insertion via human diploid cells in MMR, chickenpox, and Hep A vaccines.

Everyone must be vaccinated because the vaccines don’t always work.

The autism changepoint year occurred around the time of the neonatal (day-of-birth) hepatitis B shot.

It’s like mandating seat belts and bike helmets, for the greater good.

Did you know that there are GMOs in vaccines?  

And we’re just warming up. Is it any wonder that the vast majority of people tune it out? Have you ever wondered if this is by design?

The vaccine minefield is really about the age old battle that our founding fathers understood all too well.

Vigilance against the expanding scope of power

We’re talking about authoritarianism and privacy and hidden agendas of powerful players whose interests are not aligned with ours.

Have you thought about Edward Snowden lately? From the Snowden movie:

CIA bigwig: Most Americans don’t want freedom. They want security. It’s a simple bargain… you pay the price of admission… Where’s the modern battlefield, soldier? [Everywhere.] What’s the first rule of battle? [Never reveal your position.] And if one unauthorized person knew? [If Congress knows, so would the enemy.] That, Mr. Snowden, is the state of the world. Secrecy is security. And security is victory.

Snowden: The people being able to question the government and hold it accountable, that’s the principle the United States of America was founded on… And when those in power try to hide by classifying everything, we will call them out on it. And when they try to scare us into sacrificing our basic human rights, we won’t be intimidated and we won’t give up. We will not be silenced.

There’s a reason that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were written foremost as a call for vigilance against the expanding scope of government power and to protect individual rights.

Do we want government taking away our basic rights and messing in our personal and family matters? Should the state be allowed to judge our religious beliefs, constrain our exercise of conscience, and evaluate and override our parenting? Will we be so easily cowed and distracted, and give away the farm?

5 Topics That Are “Forbidden” to Science.

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The recent changes in Washington do not seem to bode well for fact-driven, scientific points of view on many issues. But there are already a number of sensitive areas of science where important research is stalling due to outside pressures or serious questions asked by the scientists themselves.

A yearly conference organized by the MIT Media Lab tackles “forbidden research”, the science that is constrained by ethical, cultural and institutional restrictions. The purpose of the conference is to give scientists a forum to consider these ideas and questions and to discuss the viability and necessity of studying topics like the rights of AI and machines, genetic engineering, climate change and others.

Edward Snowden, who appeared remotely at the 2016 conference, summarized its “theme” as “law is no substitute for conscience.“ Pointing to his work against pervasive digital surveillance, he reiterated that “the legality of a thing is quite distinct from the morality of it.”

The major “forbidden” topics discussed at the conference were, unsurprisingly, wrought with political implications –

1. Messing with Nature

How much should we mess with nature? We now have an opportunity to potentially greatly advance our abilities and eradicate diseases with genetic engineering. But how much interference with the way nature designed us is ok? Who should decide how much is ok? 

It is possible to use “gene” drives” to gene-edit an entire species, like, for instance, to get rid of mosquitoes. Not many would miss the pesky insects, but spreading the modified genetic traits throughout their population could have unintended consequences, not to mention the effect on the food chain.

Still, these concerns do not necessarily outweigh the possibility that gene-editing them could be extremely beneficial to us. The questions of how gene-editing can be safely incorporated into our lives will continue to persist as technology keeps improving.

 “Some things are forbidden and arguably shouldn’t be, but other things perhaps we need some more barriers,” says Kevin Esvelt, a synthetic biologist with the Media Lab.

2. Engineering the Climate

One way to help address climate change is via solar engineering. This involves releasing sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere to reflect some of the sunlight away from Earth. Doing this could tamp down rising temperatures, possibly bringing them back to pre-industrial levels. 

This approach is certainly open to significant challenges. Atmospheric testing is necessary to see whether doing this could damage the ozone layer while adding more pollutants to the atmosphere. Yet, it’s something that to could work and address global warming. Without a serious discussion, which starts by agreeing that global warming is a real issue, we are just doing nothing while the problem potentially grows worse and worse.

“We have collectively decided we prefer ignorance. We need a serious, open, no-nonsense international research program, and we don’t have one. That is political cowardice,” said Harvard professor David Keith.

3. Robot Ethics

As robotic technology continues to advance by leaps and bounds, the questions of where the lines between the robots and humans will be drawn abound. For example, there is potential to protect children from sexual deviance by creating sex robots for pedophiles. This kind of research is nearly impossible, however, due to the ethical and legal restrictions in the field.

“I want to know [if] we can use robots therapeutically to help,” said robot ethicist Kate Darling from MIT’a Media Lab. “We have no idea if we can, and we can’t research it because of the huge social stigma.”

MIT Media Lab's "Forbidden Research" conference 2016. Credit: MIT Media Lab, Youtube.

MIT Media Lab’s “Forbidden Research” conference 2016. 

4. Secure Communication Technology 

It’s a real challenge to create communication tech that is not being spied on by somebody, from corporations to the government. This was stressed by Edward Snowden and hacker and engineer Andrew Huang, who appeared at the conference.

Snowden elaborated on the distinction between the moral and legal in these examples:

“Our investigation regards countering what we’re calling lawful abuses of digital surveillance. Lawful abuse, right, what is that, doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Seems like it might be a contradiction in terms. (…) But if you think about it for just a moment it might seem to be a little bit more clear. After all, the legality of a thing is quite distinct from the morality of it. Segregation, slavery, genocides, these have all been perpetuated under frameworks that said they were lawful, as long as you abided by the regulations that were sort of managing those activities,” said Snowden.

5. Universal Access to Science

Should all publicly-funded research be available to everyone on Earth? This was the inspiration for SciHub, a Russian science that featured 55 million scientific papers for free. Many of them were pirated and pulled from behind paywalls.

Kazakh student Alexandra Elbakyan, who created the site, said at the conference that she can’t travel to the U.S. or Europe because she might be arrested. On the other hand, because the site has been resilient and not taken down, she thinks “the only thing now is to make it legal”.

The question of whether there is a moral imperative to spread scientific knowledge is tempered by political and business realities. But if science finds the verifiable truth, is there not an inherent obligation for it to be available for all?

You can see the full 2016 “Forbidden Research” conference here.


Edward Snowden: The Internet Is Broken.

In 2013, a now-infamous government contractor named Edward Snowden shined a stark light on our vulnerable communications infrastructure by leaking 10,000 classified U.S. documents to the world.

One by one, they detailed a mass surveillance program in which the National Security Administration and others gathered information on citizens — via phone tracking and tapping undersea Internet cables.

Three years after igniting a controversy over personal privacy, public security, and online rights that he is still very much a part of, Snowden spoke with Popular Science in December 2015 and shared his thoughts on what’s still wrong and how to fix it.


Edward Snowden: There have been a tremendous number of changes that have happened, and not just on the Internet. It has changed our culture, it has changed our laws, it’s changed the way our courts decide issues, its changed the way people consider what the Internet means to the them, what their communication security means to them.

The Internet as a technological development has reached within the walls of every home. Even if you don’t use it, even if you don’t have a smart phone, even if you don’t have a laptop or an Internet connection or a phone line, your information is handled by tax authorities, by health providers and hospitals, and all of that routes over the Internet.

This is both a force for tremendous good but it is something that can be abused. It can be abused by small time actors and criminals. It can also be abused by states. And this is what we really learned in 2013. During an arrest, police traditionally have had the ability to search anything they find on your person — if you had a note in your pocket, they could read it. But now we all carry smartphones on us, and smartphones don’t just have this piece of ID, or your shopping list, or your Metrocard. Your entire life now fits in your pocket. And it was not until after 2013 that the courts were forced to confront this decision.

 In the post-9/11 era, in the context of this terrorism threat that has been very heavily promoted by two successive administrations now, there was this idea that we had to go to the dark side to be able to confront the threat posed by bad guys. We had to adopt their methods for ourselves.

We saw the widening embrace of things like warrantless wire-tapping during the Bush administration, as well as things like torture1. But in 2014, there was the Riley decision that went to the Supreme Court — that was one of the most significant changes.2

Which is that in the Riley decision, the courts have finally recognized that digital is different. They recognized that the unlimited access of government to continuum of your private information and private activities, whether that is the content of your communication or the meta data of your communications, when it is aggregated it means something completely different than what our laws have been treating it as previously.

It does not follow that police and the government then have the authority to search through your entire life in your pocket just because you are pulled over for a broken taillight. When we change this over to the technical fabric of the Internet, our communications exist in an extraordinarily vulnerable state, and we have to find ways of enforcing the rights that are inherent to our nature. They are not granted by government, they are guaranteed by government — the reality is a recognition of your rights, which includes your right to be left alone (as the courts describe privacy) and to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, as we have in our Fourth Amendment..

And one of the most measurable changes is guaranteeing those rights, regardless of where you are at and regardless of where the system is being used, through encryption. Now it is not the magic bullet, but it is pretty good protection for the rights we enjoy.

About eight months out from the original revelations, in early January 2014, Google’s metrics showed there was a 50 percent increase in the amount of encrypted traffic that their browsers were handling3. This is because all of the mainline Internet service providers — Gmail, Facebook, and even major website providers — are encrypted, and this is very valuable. You can enforce a level of protection for your communications simply by taking very minor technical changes.


Yeah, the easiest way to analogize this is that 2013 was the “atomic moment” for the profession of computer scientists and the field of technologists. The nuclear physicists of a previous era were just fascinated with their capabilities and what secrets they could unlock, but didn’t consider how these powers would be used in their most extreme forms.

It is the same way in technology. We have been expanding and expanding because technology is incredibly useful. It is incredibly beneficial. But at the same time, we technologists as a class knew academically that these capabilities could be abused, but nobody actually believed they would be abused. Because why would you do that? It seemed so antisocial as a basic concept.

But we were confronted with documented evidence in 2013 that even what most people would consider to be a fairly forthright upstanding government was abusing these capabilities in the most indiscriminate way. They had created a system of “bulk collection”, as the government likes to describe it — the public calls it mass surveillance. It affected everybody. It affected people overseas and at home, and it violated our own Constitution. And the courts have now ruled multiple times that it did do so4.

Prior to 2013, everybody who thought about the concept of mass surveillance either had to consider it an academic concept, or they were a conspiracy theorist. Now, though, we have moved from the realm of theory to the realm of fact. We are dealing with actual credible and documented threats, and because of that, we can actually start to think about how do we deal with that? How do we remedy the threats?

And how do we provide security for everybody?


Right5, and this is more topical6. Because of the way the WhatsApp service is structured, the largest messaging service in the world doesn’t know what you are saying. It doesn’t hold your messages, it doesn’t store your messages in a way that it can read. Which is much safer against abuse than if you simply have AT&T holding a record of every text message you’ve ever sent.

During the first crypto-war in the 1990s, the NSA and the FBI asked for backdoors for all the world’s communications that were running on American systems. The NSA designed a chip called the Clipper chip that encrypted the communications in a way that they could be broken by the government, but your kid sister wouldn’t be able to read them6. The NSA said no one is actually going to be able to break this — it is not a real security weakness, it is a theoretical security weakness.

Well, there was a computer scientist at AT&T Bell Laboratories, Matt Blaze, who is now a professor at University of Pennsylvania, who took a look at his chip and as a single individual, broke the encryption, which the government said was unbreakable7. Only they could break it. This is what is called ‘nobody but us’ sort of surveillance. Well, the thing is, it is very difficult to substitute the judgment of ten engineers behind closed doors in a government lab somewhere for the entire population of the world, and say these ten guys are smarter than everybody else. We know that doesn’t work.

This leads the question of the future. Technology progresses at what we see appears to be an accelerating rate. Before 2013, before we had a leg to stand on and say this is what is actually going on, we had developed a panopticon8, which no one outside of the security services was fully authorized to know. Even members of Congress, like Ron Wyden, were being lied to on camera by the top intelligence officials9 of the United States — what if we were never able to take any steps to correct the balance there?

Prior to 2013, everything we did on the Internet was more or less simply because no one wanted to make the effort. There were capabilities that existed. There were tools that existed. But by and large, everything we did on the Internet, as we engaged on the Internet, we were electronically naked, and this is really the most lasting impact is for the classes of cryptographers and security engineers that recognize the path across the network is hostile terrain.


We are starting to see a sense of obligation on the part of technologists to clothe the users. And users isn’t the best language to use. We use users, we use customers as a sector, but we mean people.

And this is not just the United States’ problem, it is a global problem. One of the primary arguments used by apologists for this surveillance state that has developed across the United States and in every country worldwide is a trust of the government. This is critical — even if you trust the U.S. government and their laws, we’ve reformed this issues, think about the governments you fear the most, whether it is China, Russia or North Korea, or Iran. These spying capabilities exist for everyone.

Technically they are not very far out of reach. The offense is easier than the defense, or has been, but that is beginning to change. We can move this status quo to a dynamic where everyone is safe.

Protecting the sanctity of critical infrastructure of communications online is not a luxury good or right. It is a public necessity, because of what is described as the cyber-security problem. Look at the Sony hack10 in late 2014, or the Office of Personnel Management hack11 last summer, where the federal government — arguably the world’s most well-resourced actor — got comprehensively hacked. They weren’t using any form of encryption to protect the incredibly sensitive records of people who have top secret clearances. The only way to provide security in this context is to provide it for everyone. Security in the digital world is not something that can be selective.

There is a seminal paper called ‘Keys Under Doormats‘. It’s really good. The idea here is that if you weaken security for an individual or for a class of individuals, you weaken it for everyone. What you are doing is you’re putting holes in systems, keys under doormats, and those keys can be found by our adversaries as well as those we trust.


There actually is. The solution here is for both sides of the equation to recognize that security premised on a foundation of trust is, by its very nature, insecure. Trust is transient. It isn’t permanent. It changes based on situations, it changes based on administrations.

Let’s say you trust President Obama with the most extreme powers of mass surveillance, and think he won’t abuse them. Would you think the same thing about a President Donald Trump, having his hand on the same steering wheel? And these are dynamics that change very quickly.

This is not just an American thing; this is happening in every country in every part of the world. We first need to move beyond the argumentation by policy officials of wishing for something that is technically impossible. The idea ‘Let’s get rid of encryption’. It is out of their hands. The jurisdiction of Congress ends at its borders. Even if all strong encryption is banned in the United States because we don’t want Al Qaeda to have it, we can’t stop a group from developing these tools in Yemen, or in Afghanistan, or any other region of the world and spreading the tools globally.

We already know the program code, and again, we dealt with this in the ’90s. It is a genie that won’t go back in the bottle.

 Once we move beyond what legislation can accomplish, we need to think about what it should accomplish. There is an argument where the government says, ‘You should give up a lot of your liberty because it’ll give us some benefit in terms of investigatory powers, and we believe it might lead to greater security.’ But security, surveillance, and privacy are not contrary goals. You don’t give up one and get more of the other. If you lose one, you lose the other. If you are always observed and always monitored, you are more vulnerable to abuse than you were before.

They are saying we are balancing something, but it is a false premise. When you can’t protect yourself, you are more vulnerable to the depredations of others, whether they are criminal groups, government, or whomever. What you can’t have is what the courts have referred to as the right to be left alone, in which you can selectively participate and share. You can’t experiment or engage in an unconsidered conversation with your friends and your family because you’ll worry what that is going to look like in a government or corporate database 20 or 30 years down the road.

There are those who argue we need get rid of that. All of this individuality is dangerous for large and well-organized societies. We need people who are observed and controlled because it is safer. That may be a lot of things, but the one thing I’d argue it is not is American.


When we think about privacy, what we are describing is liberty. We are describing a right to be left alone. We can always choose to waive that right, and this is the fundamental difference between corporate data collection and government surveillance from every sort of two bit government in the world.

You can choose not to use Amazon, or log onto Facebook12 — you can’t opt out of governmental mass surveillance that watches everybody in the world without regard to any suspicious criminal activity or any kind of wrong doing. This is the challenge.

It’s not that all surveillance is bad. We don’t want to restrict the police from doing anything. The idea is that traditional and effective means of an investigation don’t target a platform, a service, or a class. If you were to stop a terrorist attack, you target a suspect, an individual. That is the only way you can discriminate and properly apply the vast range of military and law enforcement intelligence capabilities. Otherwise, you are looking at a suspect pool of roughly 7 billion people in the world.

This is the reason mass surveillance doesn’t work. You don’t have to take my word for it, particularly in the context of public communication. You can cite the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board’s review on section 21513, and their specific quotes, this is their words, “We are aware of no instance in which the [mass surveillance] program directly contributed to the discovery of a previously unknown terrorist plot or the disruption of a terrorist attack14.”

This begs the question: why? Why doesn’t mass surveillance work? That is the problem with false positives and false negatives. If you go look, our program is 99.9 percent effective, and that sounds really good, but when you think about that in the context of a program, that means one out of every thousand people is going to be inaccurately identified as a terrorist, or one out of every thousand terrorists is actually going to be let go by the system, and considered to not be a terrorist.

And the real problem is that our algorithms are not 99.9 percent effective. They are about 80 percent effective at best. And when you upscale that to the population of the entire world, even if they were 99.99999 percent effective, suddenly you are transforming millions of completely innocent people into terrorists. At the same time, you are transforming tons of actual terrorists, whom any police officer, after a cursory review of their actions, would say ‘That’s suspicious,’ into law-abiding citizens. That is the fundamental problem there, and why it hasn’t worked, so if is hasn’t been effective, why are they doing it? It costs a lot of money, so why deal with it at all?


These programs were never about terrorism. They are not effective for terrorism. But they are useful for a lot of other things, like espionage, diplomatic manipulation, and ultimately social control.

Imagine yourself sitting at a desk, and you have a little box that lets you search anybody’s email in the world; it lets you pull up their entire web history, anything they’ve ever typed into a search engine; you can read the message they are typing on Facebook as they do it; you can turn on the webcam on any private home; you can follow where anyone goes through their cell phone at any time. This is obviously an extraordinarily valuable mechanism of influence, of power, of capability.

What it doesn’t do, though, is stop terrorist attacks.

And this is one of the fundamental problems of the public debate. The officials who are promoting and desire these capabilities recognize this — ‘Look, it’ll give us an advantage in foreign intelligence collection. It’ll allow us to compete on a stronger basis in the global economic market.’ These are arguments they still might win because people may be OK with that bargain: ‘That’s fine. I don’t care if you spy on foreigners. I don’t care if you commit economic espionage as long as it benefits us. I don’t care if you are monitoring protestors because I don’t agree with protestors.’

But that is a very different argument, and one that is more difficult to win, than saying this will save lives, this will stop terrorism, and this is the solution to our problems.


Right. And they have been making this argument since 2001, but we are now in 2016. To me personally, this is why I think the environment, and the response, has changed so much since 2013. They said, ‘What this guy did was dangerous. The press was irresponsible reviewing classified programs. Even if [the NSA] did violate the law, even if they did violate the constitution, people will die over this.’

Since 2013, all the top officials at the NSA and the CIA have been brought on the floor of Congress, and Congress has begged them repeatedly, Can you show us any cases? Name a single person who has died as a result of these disclosures? And they’ve never been able to do that. They’ve never been able to show a particular national security operation that has been damaged as a result.15

The dynamic here is the same — it had been easy to make the argument that you should be afraid because we just don’t know. That argument is no longer the case 15 years later.


There are a number of organizations around the world, like the TOR project, that, even if they can’t solve the problem, they are improving the status quo that people are dealing with around the world. Even if you, sitting in Chicago, are being comprehensively surveilled, you might not be concerned. But if you allow that to happen simply because you don’t care about its impact, you are ignoring the collective impact it has on everyone else. This is the fundamental nature of rights. Arguing for surveillance because you have nothing to hide is no different than making the claim, ‘I don’t care about freedom of speech because I have nothing to say.’

Rights are not just individual. They are collective and universal. And I am now working at the Freedom of the Press Foundation to look at: How do we help people in the most difficult circumstances, and who face the most severe threats of surveillance?

Politicians are trying to convince the public to rely on security that is premised on the idea of trust. This is the current political problem: ‘Let us do this stuff, and we won’t abuse it.’ But that trust is gone. They violated it.

There is a technical paradigm that is being shifted to where we no longer need to trust the people handling our communication. We simply will not give them the capability to abuse it in the first place. We are not going to bare our breast for them to drive the knife in if they change their mind about us.


Let’s think about the example of AT&T sharing with the government more than 26 years of phone records16. That’s the full span of these people’s lives. They’ll never have made a phone call on AT&T that hasn’t been captured. Their very first AT&T call, when they were four years old and called their mom, has been recorded. And the argument — ‘It is just metadata. This is just your phone bills and calling records’ — misunderstands what it really is and why it matters.

Metadata is the technical word for an activity record, so the government has been aggregating perfect records of private lives. And when you have all of someone’s phone records, purchase records, every website they’ve ever visited or typed into Google, or liked on Facebook, every cell phone tower their phone has ever passed and at what time, and what other cell phones were at that tower with them, what you’ve done is you’ve written a secret biography of every person that even they themselves don’t know.

 When we think about surveillance as being a mechanism of control, at the lowest level it means that this young cohort is growing up in a society that has transformed from an open society to a quantified society. And there is no action or activity they could take that could be unobserved and truly free. People will say ‘We trust we’ll be ok,’ but this is an entire cohort that at any moment in the future could have their life changed permanently. And this is what I described in that first interview as ‘turnkey tyranny17.

It’s not that we think of it as evil. It’s that we’ve said for generations that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and this is a country where the Supreme Court said two years ago that the American Revolution was actually kicked off in response to general warrants of the same character that are happening in the U.S. today.18


Hollywood is only going to be so accurate in the technical sense, but yes, I do watch it. [Television and movies] are improving slowly. They are certainly better than the neon 3D virtual city back in the ’80s. But it is going to be a long road.

There is also a very interesting cultural dynamic we see shifting. For example, Captain America, in the recent Winter Soldier movie, quite openly questioned whether it is patriotism to have absolute loyalty to a government, is it more critical to have loyalty to the country’s values? There is that old saying, ‘my country, right or wrong,’ that was criticized for a long time as blindly jingoistic, but eventually it has been reformulated, “My country right or wrong. Right to be kept right, wrong to be put right.”

And this is something we are rediscovering. It is critical that the United States not just be a strong and a powerful country. We have to have a moral authority to recognize that we have the capability to exercise certain powers, but we don’t. Even though it would provide us an advantage, we realize it is something that would lose us something that is far more valuable. We saw this in the Cold War that we forgot about in the immediate post 9/11 moment.


It was never my goal to fundamentally change society. I didn’t want to say what things should or shouldn’t be done. I wanted the public to have the capability and the right to decide for themselves and to help direct the government in the future. Who holds the leash of government? Is it the American people, or is it a few people sitting behind closed doors?

And I think we have been effective in getting a little bit closer to the right balance there. We haven’t solved everything. But no single person acting in a vacuum is going to be able to solve problems so large on their own. And none of this would have happened without the work of journalists.

Would I have done anything different? I should have come forward sooner. I had too much faith that the government really would do no wrong. I was drinking the Kool-Aid in the post-9/11 moment. I believed the claims of government, that this was a just cause, a moral cause, and we don’t need to listen to these people who say we broke this law or that law. No one could really prove with finality that this was not the case, that the government was actually lying.

One of the biggest legacies is the change of trust. Officials at the NSA and the CIA were seen as James Bond types, but now, they are seen as war criminals. At the same time, people like Ashkan Soltani was hired to the White House. He had been reporting on the archive in 2013 and printing classified information to the detriment of these people19. There is this really interesting dynamic where the people you would presume would be persona non gratis in Washington are now the ones in the White House, and the ones previously in the White House are now exiled and are being asked ‘Why haven’t you been prosecuted?’ It gives the flavor of that change.


We are at a fork in the road. We’ll move into a future that is just a direct progression from the pre-2013 development of technology, which is where you can’t trust your phone. You would need some other device. You would need to act like a spy to pursue a career in a field like journalism because you are always being watched.

On the other hand, there is the idea you don’t need to use these fancy trade craft methods. You don’t need to worry about your phone spying on you because you don’t need to trust your phone. Instead of changing your phone to change your persona — divorcing your journalist phone from your personal phone — you can use the systems that are surrounding us all of the time to move between personas. If you want to call a cab, the cab doesn’t need to know about who you are or your payment details.

You should be able to buy a bottle of Internet like you buy a bottle of water. There is the technical capacity to tokenize and to commoditize access in a way that we can divorce it from identity in such a way that we stop creating these trails. We have been creating these activity records of everything we do as we go about our daily business as a byproduct of living life. This is a form of pollution; just as during the Industrial Revolution, when a person in Pittsburgh couldn’t see from one corner to another because there was so much soot in the air. We can make data start working for us rather than against us. We just simply need to change the way we look at it.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

NASA Scientist Tells Us That “Somebody Else” Is On The Moon. Why Did NASA Hide This?

We live in a strange world, and as Neil Armstrong once said, there are “great ideas undiscovered, breakthroughs available to those who can remove one of the truth’s protective layers.”

Fast forward to today, and a number of people have become aware of the fact that not all of what goes on behind the scenes is made public. This is precisely why the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was created; it’s a federal freedom of information law that allows for the full or partial disclosure of previously unreleased information and documents controlled by the United States government.

There are still many obstacles in the way of full transparency, one of which is the use of ‘national security’ to keep information classified and hidden from public viewing. This has become more evident with the revelations of WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden, but the problem goes deeper still. Did you know that the U.S government classifies roughly five hundred million pages of documents every single year?


Multiple NASA personnel have made some pretty shocking claims about the Moon. George Leonard, a NASA scientist and photo analyst who obtained various official NASA photographs of the Moon, many of which he published in his book titled Somebody Else Is On The Moon, is just one of these personnel.

Although the photos are small in size and their resolution is not up to today’s standards, they show details of original, massive prints. While Leonard published the identifying code numbers of the photos in his works to back up their source, we still can’t say for sure that they were real, and their poor resolution only makes matters worse. Far more compelling than these photos are his statements about what was found on the Moon, along with his verified NASA credentials. Leonard was not the only one with a credible background trying to tell the world the truth regarding the Moon and the photos that were taken from the Apollo missions.

“Ladies and gentlemen, my government, NASA, which many of us in the United States say stands for Never A Straight Answer, proceeded to erase 40 rolls of film of the Apollo Program — the flight to the Moon, the flight around the Moon, the landings on the Moon, the walking guys here and there. They erased, for Christ’s sake, 40 rolls of film of those events. Now we’re talking about several thousand individual frames that were taken that the so-called authorities determined that you did not have a right to see. Oh, they were ‘disruptive,’ ‘socially unacceptable,’ ‘politically unacceptable.’ I’ve become furious. I’m a retired Command Sergeant Major. I was never famous for having a lot of patience.” 

The quote above is from Bob Dean, who was speak UFO phenomenoning at a conference in Europe. Bob is a retired US Army Command Sargent Major, and he also served at the (SHAPE) of NATO as an intelligence analyst.

When it comes to the UFO phenomenon, we now have public disclosure of thousands of documents along with hundreds of credible witness testimonies.

It’s also important to note here that the Russian government recently called for an international investigationinto the U.S. moon landings regarding the disappearance of film footage from the original moon landing in 1969. They are also referring to the (approximately) 400 kilograms of lunar rock that was obtained during multiple missions between 1969 and 1972.

Leonard argued that NASA knew about extraterrestrial activity on the Moon and attempted to hide that information. He’s not the only one to make such an assertion.

“Read the books, read the lore, start to understand what has really been going on, because there is no doubt that we are being visited. . . . The universe that we live in is much more wondrous, exciting, complex and far reaching than we were ever able to know up to this point in time. . . . [Mankind has long wondered if we’re] alone in the universe. [But] only in our period do we really have evidence. No, we’re not alone.”  Dr. Edgar Mitchell, ScD., NASA astronaut (6th man to walk on the moon).

Leonard is not the only NASA scientist to say some strange things about the Moon. Recently, a plasma scientist by the name of Dr. John Brandenburg said the same thing. He was the Deputy Manager of the Clementine Mission to the Moon, which was part of a joint space project between the Ballistic Missile Defence Organization (BMDO) and NASA. The mission discovered water at the Moon’s poles in 1994.

According to Brandenburg in an interview from this documentary: URL:https://youtu.be/yO0T05kQkbs

It was (the Clementine Mission) a photo reconnaissance mission basically to check out if someone was building bases on the moon that we didn’t know about. Were they expanding them?

He then went on to state that:

Of all the pictures I’ve seen from the moon that show possible structures, the most impressive is a picture of a miles wide recto-linear structure. This looked unmistakably artificial, and it shouldn’t be there. As somebody in the space defense community, I look on any such structure on the moon with great concern because it isn’t ours, there’s no way we could have built such a thing. It means someone else is up there.

If you were to tell the average person that you think another civilization, advanced enough to have mastered space travel, had been to the Moon before we got there and is possibly still going there, you would, without a doubt, receive some very peculiar looks in return. On the other hand, if that other person were to decide to hear you out, you would probably get their attention pretty quickly. For some, this type of information can be overwhelming, even terrifying, and that’s okay. Many people are not ready to open their minds up to these possibilities, but the truth of the matter is, it’s something we are going to have to confront eventually. We are clearly heading towards the inevitable reality of extraterrestrial contact — that is, if we smarten up and start taking care of our planet to the best of our ability. Perhaps we can make it long enough to realize this future, or maybe it’s coming sooner than we think.

Edward Snowden Develops Phone Case to Alert Users if Their Data is Being Compromised


Three years ago, when Edward Snowden fled from the US and met with reporters in Hong Kong to reveal his reasons for leaving — he asked them to put their phones in the hotel room refrigerator. He asked them to do so in order to block the signals sent to and from the phones. Now, three years later, Snowden and Andrew ‘Bunnie’ Huang have used that same principle to design a phone case that warns users when their data is being monitored. Say hello to the Snowden phone case.

Snowden and Huang revealed their plans for the case via video link to an event at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The duo showed how the device connects to the phone’s radio transmitters and alerts the owner when a cellular, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection is being used to share or receive data.



According to Snowden and Huang’s research, the idea to make such a case was inspired by protecting journalists.

Front-line journalists risk their lives to report from conflict regions. Casting a spotlight on atrocities, their updates can alter the tides of war and outcomes of elections. As a result, front-line journalists are high-value targets, and their enemies will spare no expense to silence them. In the past decade, hundreds of journalists have been captured, tortured and killed. These journalists have been reporting in conflict zones, such as Iraq and Syria, or in regions of political instability, such as the Philippines, Mexico, and Somalia.

Unfortunately, journalists can be betrayed by their own tools. Their smartphones, an essential tool for communicating with sources and the outside world–as well as for taking photos and authoring articles–are also the perfect tracking device. Legal barriers barring the access to unwitting phone transmissions are failing because of the precedent set by the US’s “third-party doctrine,” which holds that metadata on such signals enjoys no legal protection. As a result, governments and powerful political institutions are gaining access to comprehensive records of phone emissions unwittingly broadcast by device owners. This leaves journalists, activists, and rights workers in a position of vulnerability. Reporter Marie Colvin’s 2012 death is a tragic reminder of how real this vulnerability can be. A lawsuit against the Syrian government filed in 2016 alleges she was deliberately targeted and killed by Syrian government artillery fire. The lawsuit describes how her location was discovered in part through the use of intercept devices that monitored satellite-dish and cellphone communications.

“If you have a phone in your pocket that’s turned on, a long-lived record of your movements has been created,” Snowden said. “As a result of the way the cell network functions your device is constantly shouting into the air by means of radio signals a unique identity that validates you to the phone company. And this unique identity is not only saved by that phone company, but it can also be observed as it travels over the air by independent, even more dangerous third parties.”

1469037866496_concept-renderingThis device will act as a kill switch that would pull the phone’s power supply when it detected radio transmitting after the owner has attempted to turn it off. As Snowden points out, Airplane mode is often ineffective at preventing such communications interception.

Turning off radios by entering airplane mode is no defense; for example, on iPhones since iOS 8.2, GPS is active in airplane mode. Furthermore, airplane mode is a “soft switch”–the graphics on the screen have no essential correlation with the hardware state. Malware packages, peddled by hackers at a price accessible by private individuals, can activate radios without any indication from the user interface; trusting a phone that has been hacked to go into airplane mode is like trusting a drunk person to judge if they are sober enough to drive.

While the device is still far from ready for commercial distribution, Snowden and Huang note that they hope this case study will influence how individuals perceive their personal tracking devices they carry around in their pockets — also known as cell phones.

“Over the coming year, we hope to prototype and verify the introspection engine’s abilities,” they write. “As the project is run largely through volunteer efforts on a shoestring budget, it will proceed at a pace reflecting the practical limitations of donated time.”

Judging by how well the news of this device is being received, Snowden and Huang should start a crowdfunding effort. Also, judging by the ever-increasing size and scope of the police and surveillance state — this thing needs to be built yesterday.

Snowden Uncovers Best Methods of Defending Personal Data / Sputnik International

In a world where the Internet has become ubiquitous, everyone should consider threats associated with possible leaks of vital personal data and take simple steps to prevent it, former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden said in an interview with the Intercept.

NSA former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden is seen via live video link from Russia on a computer screen during a parliamentary hearing on the subject of Improving the protection of whistleblowers, on June 23, 2015, at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg

Internet users’ personal information is being stolen, collected, intercepted, analyzed, and stored with the use of all known to date communication platforms on daily basis by governments and various companies, Snowden claimed, pointing out that in order to protect crucial data, one should “armor [himself] using systems we can rely on every day.”Two of the reccomendations he made was to use Tor, an encrypted online browser, for internet usage and also using a password manager that creates unique long passwords for each site you use.

Moreover, Tor blocks ads and disables scripts and other active content distributed by Internet providers and should be essential for security purposes, he outlined.

“As long as service providers are serving ads with active content that require the use of Javascript to display, that have some kind of active content like Flash embedded in it, anything that can be a vector for attack in your web browser — you should be actively trying to block these.”

The purpose of these security measures is to shield certain parts of life which are intimate and personal.

“What we do need to protect are the facts of our activities, our beliefs, and our lives that could be used against us in manners that are contrary to our interests.”

So in this regard the whistleblower suggested that what he calls “selective sharing” of personal information technique is something that average Internet user badly needs to use.

“[Sharing of personal data] should be thoughtful, it should be things that are mutually beneficial to people that you’re sharing with, and these aren’t things that are simply taken from you.”

One of the crucial goals humanity needs to achieve is discovering a “way to protect the rights that we ourselves inherited for the next generation.” And cutting-edge technologies in his opinion is “the quickest and most promising means” that humans can use addressing that issue.

“Today we’re standing at a fork in the road that divides between an open society and a controlled system. If we don’t do anything about this, people will look back at this moment and they’ll say, why did you let that happen?”


Academics should not remain silent on hacking : Nature News & Comment

Academics should not remain silent on hacking

The revelation that US and British spy agencies have undermined a commonly used encryption code should alarm researchers, says Charles Arthur.

Secrecy doesn’t come naturally to journalists, but sometimes it is thrust upon us. Earlier this year, there was a room in The Guardian‘s offices in London that nobody could enter alone. On a table outside by a security guard was a tidy collection of phones and other devices; nothing electronic was allowed. Inside were a coffee maker, a shredder, some paper and a few computers. All were brand new; none had ever been connected to the Internet. None ran Microsoft Windows. All were encrypted; each required two passwords, held by different people.

This is where the biggest news stories of this year lived — away from the Internet. This was where The Guardian analysed the ‘Snowden files’ (classified documents released to the press by former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden). These revealed, among other things, that the NSA and the United Kingdom’s GCHQ were running enormous efforts to crack encrypted communications online, and that they had worked to undermine the strength of encryption standards such as that used — and recommended — by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). (The computers sadly are no more — smashed in The Guardian basement on the orders of the British government.)

NIST’s standard for random numbers used for cryptography, published in 2006, had been weakened by the NSA. Companies such as banks and financial institutions that rely on encryption to guarantee customer privacy depend on this standard. The nature of the subversions sounds abstruse: the random-number generator, the ‘Dual EC DRBG‘ standard, had been hacked by the NSA so that its output would not be as random as it should have been. That might not sound like much, but if you are trying to break an encrypted message, the knowledge that it is hundreds or thousands of times weaker than advertised is a great encouragement.

It was, to be frank, a big deal. In the world’s universities, computer scientists and mathematicians spend their careers trying to develop secure systems, and yet here was evidence of a systematic — and successful — attempt to undermine that work. Executives at companies such as Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Microsoft, which discovered that their internal networks were being tapped and their systems infiltrated, were furious. But a few isolated shouts of protest aside, the academic community has largely been silent.

That’s disappointing. Academia is where we expect to hear the free flow of ideas and opinions. Yet it has been the commercial companies that have made the most noise — because the revelations threaten trust in their businesses. Don’t academics also see the threat to open expression, and to the flow of dissident ideas from countries where people might fear that their communications are being tapped and, even if encrypted, cracked?

“Academics in cryptography and security should make themselves a promise: ‘we won’t get fooled again.’”

Some get it. Ross Anderson, a security researcher at the University of Cambridge, UK, has been highly critical and outspoken. When I spoke to him in September, soon after the NIST revelation, he called it “a wake-up call for a lot of people” and added: “This has been a 9/11 moment for the community, and it’s great that some people are beginning to wake up.”

Kenneth White, principal scientist at health-information company Social & Scientific Systems in Silver Spring, Maryland, says: “Just a year ago, such a story would have been derogated by most of my colleagues as unwarranted suspicion at best and outright paranoia at worst. But here we are.”

Anderson has an explanation for the muted response: he says that a number of British university departments have been quietly coerced by the GCHQ. The intelligence-gathering agency has a substantial budget, and ropes in academics by offering access to funds that ensures their silence on sensitive matters, Anderson says. (If that sounds like paranoia, then see above.)

I have not been able to confirm his claims, but what are the alternatives? One is that the academics are simply too busy going back over their own work looking to see if they agree with the claimed weaknesses. The other is that they simply don’t care enough.

For those who do care, White and Matthew Green, who teaches cryptography at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, have embarked on an ambitious effort to clean up the mess — one that needs help.

They have created a non-profit organization called OpenAudit.org, which aims to recruit experts to provide technical assistance for security projects in the public interest, especially open-source security software. A similar effort initiated by White and Green is checking the open-source software called TrueCrypt, which is widely used to lock down hard drives during foreign travel (see go.nature.com/nsvdjh).

Concerns over the security of the NIST Dual EC DRBG standard were raised in 2007, but too few academics spoke out then. The events of 2013 must make them rethink. Cryptography rarely reaches the headlines, but now it has done so for all the wrong reasons. For 2014, academics working in cryptography and security should make themselves a promise: ‘We won’t get fooled again.’ And most of all, ‘We won’t go down quietly.’

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