National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden joined journalist Glenn Greenwald to complete the lineup at day three of CeBIT 2015 with a Q&A session at the Hannover trade show, and warned that talented IT end users should be wary of spying from government agencies.
Speaking via video link, Snowden discussed the ethical implications of his decision to out the U.S. government for mining private information on its citizens, along with the impending reality for ordinary people.
Citing draft legislation that is being pushed in the U.K. as a prime example of government control, Snowden revealed who he believed were the true targets of snooping laws. “Organisations like the NSA and GCHQ in Britain use ‘equipment interference’ laws because it gives them a means to hack people as well as targets,” he said. “The reality is they are looking to spy on the types of people who are in this very room. The people who have access to systems, the people who control and have access to IT and critical infrastructure. It’s vital that we come together to prevent them from doing that.
“If you work in a job that provides IT security, it’s absolutely vital that you don’t work against users. If you are able to provide a competitive service, then you could have the power to influence the domain of policy.”
He specified two measures that users could take to enhance their security capabilities. “End-to-end encryption and enhanced endpoint security are just some of the steps that we can take to ensure our own security,” he said.
Snowden went on to frame how the revelations have opened the world’s eyes to the ubiquity of IT security threats. “Before 2013, the public always considered the potential for threat; it was simply regarded as a dark art. They maybe didn’t know it was happening on the scale it was. They didn’t realise that rather than being used as mere infrastructure, the Internet was being used more as a target for surveillance by governments.”
Greenwald underlined how the US government’s two-faced approach had been a major breach of its citizens’ trust, and a misuse of technology. “The NSA were using the Internet as a tool of mass surveillance – and kept the public in the dark about it,” he said. “We’d heard for years about how the likes of Iran, China and Russia were the bad guys, but our own Western governments were doing this kind of thing to their own people. It proved that it wasn’t just those who are portrayed as evil on a daily basis who are responsible for this.”
He went on to show his disappointment at the German government in failing to offer Snowden asylum in his hour of need. “For a country that is regarded as the champions of data protection, Germany has let the free world down by spurning Snowden,” he said. “Considering that he’s showed them how to safeguard their infrastructures, it’s shameful what they’ve done to him.”