• Sun
  • Sep 21, 2014
  • Updated: 4:13am
My Take
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 July, 2013, 4:01am

Snowden's revelations are chilling for us all

The BRICS nations are banding together to protect their information security, it was reported over the weekend. Another report said companies were seeking out security firms to shore up their internet security.

Hey, what about you and me?

You have nothing to worry if you are not a terrorist. That is what the US authorities tell us after Edward Snowden revealed the country's National Security Agency has been tapping the phone calls and e-mails of millions outside the country, including Hong Kong.

They are copied and stored in gigantic severs in Utah to be checked "only if you are doing something illegal".

If you take all the messages you sent over the past couple of years, there is every chance most of your personal details, from passport and ID numbers to bank accounts to the name of your cat, will show up. But they assure you, if you are not a terrorist, you need not worry. No one is going to look through it.

But what if a secret agent or rogue agent is on a Rambo mission to China and looking for a false identity? Wouldn't it be a treasure trove for such an identity thief? Get some Hong Kong person's passport details, study them, forge a passport with an appropriate picture and voilà, he's on his way.

The stuff of Hollywood, you say? Just Google the killing of Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh in Dubai in early 2010. In an operation widely blamed on Israel's secret service Mossad, more than 20 forged passports of citizens of five countries were used.

OK, now you can argue the NSA, which has all these details, is supervised properly and a court set up under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (which deliberates in secret) must look into the data. But the problem is, about 70 per cent of the work is done not by its employees but by firms contracted by the agency.

What guarantee is there that some of them won't be lured to dive into the stored data, maybe not for a covert spying mission but just to sell it at a profit.

Snowden, too, was a contractor. He just downloaded information he wanted onto thumb drives and walked out. The NSA had no idea what he had done until he surfaced in Hong Kong and the media started publishing his claims.

And they are saying we have nothing to fear?


Alex Lo is on leave


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This article is now closed to comments

Over states things a bit. Anyone with any sense has long assumed that emails are not private. Anyone who puts "passport and ID numbers to bank accounts to the name of your cat" in an email is a fool. Well, maybe not in the case of cats' names. What the Americans do is bad, but they are not the only ones - or the ones Hongkongers need to fear most.
hard times !
who should Hongkongers fear most then ? The Chinese National Security Bureau or the professional hackers from the Mainland or our own SAR government whose officials are also victims of the intrusions of the NSA of America into our Internet Exchange at the Chinese Univ.in Shatin !
The way the cyber network is constructed - a node-and-nexus architecture - and the way how NSA snoop the world's information means that it doesn't matter how you take care of matters at your end or the other side's, all your data are intercepted at the switches and servers at the various ISPs and providers along the datapath, not even encryption helps because the NSA have supercomputers to brute-force it if need be.
That said, one don't need to do any more then they're already doing against computer virus, malware and rootware. You can only deal with incoming attacks, but all your outgoing materials are fair game to the Big Brother.
And that's why UBL lived inside a compound that has no telephone line or satellite dish, and rely on trusted courier to deliver things. Lesson is, if you truly wants to beat the Big Brother, learn from UBL.
But be warned, it might make your relatives or close associates got snatched up in the street, air-flown to Gitmo and tortured the living hell out of them, simply because your new lifestyle draw suspicion from the Big Brother.
hard times !
Of course we have every reason to worry that our personal information have been stored in the huge servers at Utah,the USA.They might be stolen by any rogues for any reasons:personal gains or spying or ...Just like Snowden who was once a contractor employee of the NSA but smuggled out with stored top-secret information in his USB which was disclosed in Hong Kong at a time he chose.'If you are not a terrorist, you have nothing to fear !' is absolutely nonsense !
Just yesterday, SCMP reported a theft at Peninsula Hotel and the thief used the oldest form of identity theft by being an in the flesh impostor to obtain another hotel room key just by claiming the name and having the right date of birth.
Even without this NSA leakage episode, it is naive for anyone to think they are not at risk of identity theft. With all the information collected and stored in electronic form in your bank/credit card company, mobile phone company, loyalty programs for supermarkets, airlines; these could also be targets for identity theft harvest. The thing is a lot of times we have no choice in giving such personal information. But other times, a lot of people just give up these personal information willingly (even without bothering to read the privacy policy of the company they are giving the data to!). And all these information are easily available to the front line/customer service employees. That is why a lot of these companies are also targets for data harvesting by criminal elements.
What this NSA leakage episode shows is just how weak the controls are(were) in NSA for such download to thumb drives to not raise any alarm bells.
And we all hope that the banks, mobile phone companies and the companies that handle such data have employees/contractors will keep their word of honour when they signed non-disclosure agreements to not expose any customer data. And that they have much stricter/tighter controls than what this NSA episode has shown.
Snowden is a hero and a patriot in my book. We live in an age where the civil liberties our forefathers fought so hard for are being eroded by the day. Freedom of Press, Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Assembly are mere ghostly images of their original intent. We’ve woken up to an Orwellian Society of Fear where anyone is at the mercy of being labeled a terrorist for standing up for rights we took for granted just over a decade ago. Read about how we’re waging war against ourselves at ****dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/09/living-in-society-of-fear-ten-years.html
The fact is that virtually every country on this globe has been, and continues to do the same thing. This applies especially to Russia, China, Germany, UK, France, etc.. So we should not be the least bit surprised of Snowden's revelations.
If he broke the law, then of course he need to be held accountable and not run like a scared rabbit. What's that saying...."you can run, but you can't hide"! It's just a matter of time before he gets caught to answer for his decisions assuming he is allowed to live. Going to be interesting to see how things pan out for him then.
John Adams
Indeed - Yes !
We do fear .


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