Before anyone gets too excited, not that kind of Cyber!!


imagesYou can’t seem to turn on the television or radio without hearing about Edward Snowden and where he is, isn’t, might be, could be or should be (actually still in the transit terminal in Moscow). It’s a media circus and everyone is on the Merry-Go-Round.

It’s been a complete farce, more like a Benny Hill sketch than anything else.  The Americans are accusing all the major superpowers at the moment, insultingrussia-says-it-would-consider-an-asylum-request-from-nsa-whistleblower-edward-snowden China (according to China) and Russia (according to Russia).  President Putin has told the Americans that he isn’t going to send him (Snowden) back (so there!) and basically telling America that it has no grounds for insulting them.  America is asking for calm afterwards because, let’s face it, both Russia and China have enough bombs to reduce the planet to ash – and very fine ash at that!

Even Wikileaks founder, director and all round wanted guy Julian Assange is out of reach.  He’s in the UK and we, because we love the US of A, agreed to deport him to Sweden as he is (allegedly) wanted for questioning for another matter.  Assange is holed up in the Embassy of Ecuador who have granted him political asylum.  Unfortunately for Assange, the police will not allow him to step foot outside of the Embassy as he will be arrested (unless they squeeze him into a big diplomatic pouch).  So, he has been in the Embassy for a year now, probably bored to insanity.  It’s a pity the Americans don’t have Jack Bauer as he is skilled at breaking into Embassies and getting what he wants.  Jack Bauer is the new Chuck Norris.  Without the beard.  Or the skills.  Or the force!

In all seriousness though, Snowden (the CIA bod who compromised some of America’s top secrets including the existence of PRISM before legging it) is desperately wanted by America, not just because of what he did but also to save some sort of face.  In the past, America was swift in pointing an accusing finger at the UK or other NATO allies whenever something was compromised and now it finds itself in the position of having more leaks than a bucket without a bottom!  The report of PRISM even caused outrage over here, in the UK, where GCHQ were called to task for doing nothing wrong.  The libertarians all howling about the invasion of privacy with absolutely no evidence, even the Germans are having a go.

On a very serious note, the consequences of Snowden’s action are going to affect us all.  The problem is that PRISM has now been compromised.  The fact that such a capability existed and operated has given warning to those with intentions less than benign.  You see, it’s not just the information gathered by the system that is classified; in fact a lot of it would have been rubbish that would probably appear in some rag tabloid the day after.  It is the method by which the information is obtained that is sensitive and as such, classified.  That has now been compromised as ‘Tommy Terrorist’ knows that it exists and will ensure that he or she will take measures to counter this and not get caught out.  This has made the job of those responsible for our safety that much more difficult and harder to ensure.  Snowden has, in effect, made our lives more precocious than they already were and this is something that a lot of people do not understand.  The git!

Snowden aside, it appears that the recent spate of leaks from American personnel working within the US Intelligence community has caused a major ruckus with the Americans being called hypocrites as they were complaining about the increased cyber espionage threat from China, even go as far as banning a Chinese made mobile phone.  I don’t think that anyone has told the administration that a lot of the components for their own mobile phones come from China.  Well, that’s the iPhone 19 out of the window then!

It’s completely ridiculous.  For some reason most people seemed to have thought that once the Soviet Union had collapsed and the Warsaw pact disintegrated with satellite nations joining Europe, that spying or espionage had stopped.  In fact, after the collapse of the USSR, Russian intelligence operations increased fourfold in Europe and America.  The collapse of the Soviet state did not mean that we were all friends, quite the contrary.  The Russians, afraid of being perceived as weak by the west sent their agents out in a fit of paranoia.  Some old die hard communist must have convinced people that the west was going to invade or something.

The collapse of the Soviet Union didn’t make the world a safer place.  It made the world a more accessible target for smaller, extremists and radicals.  Everyone was happy that the big, bad Soviet bear was down and the fringe groups took advantage of that.  Since 1989 intelligence has been more vital for nation states than ever before but trying to get Joe Public “we’ve got our personal rights” to understand the ramifications of what they wanted was a waste of oxygen.  Intelligence agencies that had previously been covert were revealed and public spending was reduced by the government, who, at the end of the day were career politicians and had no idea of what price they would pay for their ignorance and stupidity.

What I find amusing is the fact that the Americans have formally complained to the Chinese about them hacking into classified computer systems.  Like it’s not fair or something.  It’s akin to the Americans complaining to the Soviets, during the cold war, that their spies were like normal people and didn’t walk around with the sign ‘Spy’ pointing to them.  Someone should remind them that espionage means that they don’t really have to get your permission to try and hack into your classified computer systems and steal plans for your latest fighter!  A Chinese general even commented that just because there isn’t a shooting war, espionage stops.  He does have a point.  Let’s face it, as Mr. Assange and associates proved, America has been doing plenty of spying on us!  As a piece of advice to our American friends, if you have very sensitive information that you need to put on a computer, make sure the computer is on a closed network so it has no outside access.  If you can’t get out, they can’t get in.  Well, unless they use a spy!

I could go on and on about intelligence, security and espionage but that would take too long and a lot of it is quite boring.  What we have here is an “OMFG” moment when someone has dropped the ball.  I don’t blame the Americans for wanting both these traitors (although Assange isn’t American and can’t be a traitor) and putting them against a wall, blindfolded and then beating them silly with balloons or whatever the punishment is.  The moral of the story is that everybody spies on everyone else.  It’s happened since the year dot and will undoubtedly go on until we get nuked into fine ash.  Intelligence is vital for the security of a nation but a lot of people don’t understand that there is a trade off.  Do you want to be safe and ignore the fact that you may be being monitored by an intelligence agency or do you want to risk stepping onto a train and being ripped apart by an explosion because the people responsible for our security had their hands tied because of all the complaints about privacy and whatnot?  At the end of the day, tommy terrorist only has to be lucky once, the security services have to be certain every time and they can’t do that blindfolded.

So, that’s one type of Cyber, what’s the other one?