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The NSA Big Data and You

Over the past several months documents detailing the National Security Agency’s electronic eavesdropping, wiretapping, data mining, and legal? coercion of software, hardware, telephone, and Internet Service Providers across the internet have come to light.

If the NSA is concerned with threats to America traveling across the internet from foreign countries, there is no reason having rooms in telephone companies in the heartland of America sweeping up domestic internet traffic, when they have the ability to trap and grab all traffic from the routers that are connected to the trans continental fiber optic cables that carry traffic into and out of the US. As for satellite internet providers, tapping that traffic by I.P address alone is sufficient to allow the NSA to carry out its mission while keeping their hands off domestic communications.

If the NSA were truly Working on National Security, identifying and taking down ‘botnets’ which are used to corrupt personal computers, for stealing credentials, usernames, passwords, banking, credit card information, and other financial information, would be a step in the right direction. The major bot nets and their command and control servers are almost exclusively foreign. In the tinfoil hat corner the NSA may be trying to co-opt these for their own purposes. One wonders…

I mentioned in an earlier posting that:

Terrorism is not a bomb problem, a gun problem, a poison problem, it is a hearts and minds problem. Terrorism is not an institutionalized way of life regardless of the loud and repeated proclamations of various government and law enforcement agencies.

To date the major players that actually have identified bot nets and taken them down have been private companies, notably anti virus vendors, security companies, and Microsoft. However Microsoft is not the white knight they would have you believe. Microsoft handed the NSA access to encrypted messages

That the NSA is creating and storing large databases of information from metadata to entire social network connections is only surprising to to folks who assume that “privacy” settings mean a damn thing to spiders, scrapers,indexers, or bot nets. An impressive explanation of Big Data can be found from Irving Wladawsky-Berger, who has probably forgotten more about big data than most folks know. Data-Driven Decision Making: Promises and Limits

Having large databases and using them are two different things. An example of this is your favorite search engine. Depending on who you use and how you search for stuff determines what you will get back. Banging a couple of words will give you millions of links whose value drops off quickly either as a result of connections made with third parties, paid placements, or mining your search history as part of this “service”.

More targeted complex queries will give you better results, but the effort required in this day and age of 140 character thought reinforces the idea that you only need a few characters to get what you are looking for. Which sadly, is what search engine providers and social network sites are counting on. And if recent earnings reports are close to accurate, this belief of instant gratification, and basic laziness of folks is a winning strategy.

Which brings us back to You and I. The First Rule of Internet Club is There Is No Privacy. If it is on a machine connected to the Internet, which also includes the machine you are reading this on. It will belong to someone else soon. Not just sitting on a social network site server, a search engine database, or the NSA, everything you post, write, display, phone, text, chat, or search for will end up in a database run by folks whose only concern for your welfare is driven by greed or fear.

The Internet is a wonderful place filled with amazing people, places and things. It is also home to Thieves, con men, charlatans, and spies. It is filled with greed and fear.

It is up to you and I to determine the direction of the internet’s future. One post at a time.
Ask yourself, Whose heart and mind is stronger?