There’s another uproar brewing over the Snowden leaks that has Americans taking to social media voicing their disapproval. They’re classifying it in the same category as the privacy issues disclosed that surround the NSA spying on US citizens. This uproar is misguided as the actions taken in this regard are a complete 180 degree turn from the other offenses the government has been doing against its citizens.
The Washington Post brought it to light today that the US government performed 231 offensive cyber-operations in 2011. The specifics are unknown but it can be assumed that they rest somewhere between simple hacking into foreign computers for the sake of planting malware or spyware and the Stuxnet attack on Iran’s nuclear weapons research facilities.
The outrage by American citizens is completely misplaced in this scenario. One can be very easily upset about the spying of communication networks that the US government is performing on US citizens. This is a justifiable outrage – the perceived benefits from this sort of intelligence are outweighed by the implications of a Big Brother society that it precedes. However, using our technology to defend the country and our allies from cyber-attacks or real-world attacks from abroad is a completely different scenario.
The only way they are even similar is that technology is involved and Edward Snowden was the source of the leaks. Otherwise, they are completely opposite of each other in what they really mean to Americans and our allies.
We want the government to protect us from threats from abroad. We do not want the government to use their resources against law-abiding citizens just because there are criminals and terrorists amongst us. For domestic spying, they need to figure something else out. For foreign spying and counter-terrorism, the use of our best technologies and minds to prevent attacks against the country and our allies is not only justified, it should be expected.
As technology progresses, there are certain things that we absolutely must hold onto in order to maintain a free society. The methods are there to give complete control to the wrong people (which means anyone) over our internet and communications networks. This is the fight that we must continue, the one that prevents the government or any other entity from overstepping its bounds and mandating protections that aren’t justifiable.
On the other side, there are those in the world that want to take down the United States, Israel, Canada, the EU, Australia, and other countries that stand in the way of their own progress. The shift is happening where China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, and other nations are acquiring the power to truly threaten us all. It’s imperative that the US and allied governments do whatever is possible to keep the upper hand and quash any threats before they get out of control.
This isn’t about us versus them. It isn’t about people of the US versus people of Russia. This is about responsibility with the power and countries like Russia and China have demonstrated that they will use their resources to harm others. That’s not to say that US or the EU are perfect – not by a long shot. Still, the cyber-warfare upper hand must remain on the less-dangerous side which is currently the United States and allies.
Fight the government, any government, that is trying to take away the rights of their people, but don’t fight them when they’re using their resources to defend against catastrophes.
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“Cyber Security” image courtesy of Shutterstock.