Many know the name Kaspersky well. Others may only dimly recognize the brand name. Its anti-virus and Internet security software has been around for years in computer stores and OEM’d with computer systems. More than a year ago, I became concerned about what I was learning about Kaspersky Lab and its headquarters in Moscow, I began asking myself hypothetical rhetorical questions. What if Kaspersky was quietly working with the Russian FSB? What if Kaspersky had installed a sleeping Trojan Horse in millions of copies of its consumer computer security software? I was a user of Kaspersky Lab cybersecurity software myself. I knew that it was rated very highly by the tech journals. I liked its elegance and simplicity compared with other competitor products from U.S. based companies like Symantec and McAffee. Nevertheless, as the Russian hacking of the 2016 election became an ever-larger issue, I decided to pull the plug on Kaspersky because of my fears, though there was no direct evidence of collusion between Kaspersky and the Kremlin at that time, wiped my system clean, and installed another competitor product.
Lost today in the extraordinary news frenzy surrounding the release of a video tape of Donald Trump making unprecedented lewd and obscene comments about women, was Barak Obama’s announcement that the United States officially and publicly accuses Russia of espionage in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee, and stealing documents, now in the possession of Wikileaks. Some may recall Julian Assange’s video interview with Bill Maher on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher about a month ago on this topic. It seems clear from the Bill Maher interview that Assange is on a jihad against the DNC because Clinton wanted to prosecute him. Assange has no altruistic motives — it is personal. We have a foreigner trying to influence U.S elections using documents stolen by Russia.
It appears to me that the original vision and promise of the Internet, referred to by many as Digital Utopianism, is at severe risk of deteriorating into a “balkanized” World Wide Web.
National and political Internet barriers, censorship and ubiquitous surveillance seem to be the emerging new reality. Notable digital luminaries the likes of Vin Cerf and Bill Gates have been questioned on this point, and both have expressed no major concern about deterioration of the freedom of the Internet or with the original Utopian vision. The argument is that the World Wide Web cannot be effectively blocked or censored. As a long time Silicon Valley high tech executive, I understand this optimistic view, but the facts on the ground are now providing serious evidence that the Internet is under attack, and may not survive unless there is a significant shift in these new trends.
Yesterday, the United Stated Federal Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. issued a ruling that was essentially a “technical” setback for the notion that all Internet traffic should be treated equally, better known as Net Neutrality. The ruling now permits giant corporations like Verizon, NBC/Comcast, and Time Warner to charge higher fees to content providers like Netflix, Amazon and even potentially, Google. If that sounds bad for consumers, you are right. This decision was essentially caused by an earlier decision of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to maintain a free and open “hands off” policy, and not regulate Internet traffic, considered evil by Internet purists. But the effect of this Court ruling may be greater evil, leading to the conclusion that “common carrier” regulation may be the lesser of two evils.
The good news today is Cisco’s new focus on the Internet of Things, which I have been reporting as the new Mega Global Market War. But frankly, the damage to U.S. companies like Cisco Systems by the NSA spying scandal has been catastrophic. Not only Cisco, but Google’s strategy to become a global Internet Service Provider, Yahoo, and Facebook are all affected.
Originally posted on Gigaom:
Google, a company that’s taken some lumps itself for treading heavily on users’ privacy, is not…
In the late 1990’s, I participated in the creation of the “point-to-point tunneling protocol” (PPTP) with engineers at Microsoft and Cisco Systems, now an Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) industry standard. PPTP is the technical means for creating the “virtual private networks” we use at UBC, by encrypting “open” Internet packets with IPSEC 128 bit code, buried in public packets. It was an ingenious solution enabling private Internet traffic that we assumed would last for a very long time. It was not to be, as we now know. Most disturbing, in the 1990’s the US Congress debated giving the government the key to all encryption, which was resoundingly defeated. Now, the NSA appears to have illegally circumvented this prohibition and cracked encryption anyway. But this discussion is not about the political, legal and moral issues, which are significant. In this post I am more interested in “so now what do we do?” There may be an answer on the horizon, and Canada is already a significant participant in the potential solution.