IT SECURITY

Big Brother from Another Motherland

File picture illustration of the word 'password' pictured on a computer screen, taken in Berlin May 21, 2013. Security experts warn there is little Internet users can do to protect themselves from the recently uncovered "Heartbleed" bug that exposes data to hackers, at least not until vulnerable websites upgrade their software. Researchers have observed April 8, 2014, sophisticated hacking groups conducting automated scans of the Internet in search of Web servers running a widely used Web encryption program known as OpenSSL that makes them vulnerable to the theft of data, including passwords, confidential communications and credit card numbers. OpenSSL is used on about two-thirds of all Web servers, but the issue has gone undetected for about two years. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski/Files (GERMANY - Tags: CRIME LAW SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY)
Can the Internet ever be safe?
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Foreign IT companies forced by their governments to cooperate with intelligence agencies could lose out on German government contracts.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • The German state is one of the largest IT customers in the country, having spent €20.4 billion in 2013.
    • IT companies contracted with the German state are required to vouch not just for the security of their own products, but also those of their suppliers.
    • When the rules are violated, the government can cancel a contract if the IT company in question fails to fix the security vulnerability.
  • Audio

    Audio

  • Pdf

Suddenly a few lines of program code appeared where they didn’t belong. Was it America’s NSA? Or maybe another intelligence service? It’s difficult to know.

Juniper Networks, a California-based internet security software company, warned the public at the end of last year that it had found two backdoors in an operating system used by some of its firewalls. Whoever knew how to exploit these holes could monitor encrypted data on thousands of devices. And just who was responsible for this breach? The main suspect, perhaps unsurprisingly, is the NSA.

If there is one thing foreign governments have learned from the revelations by former NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden, it is that intelligence services around the world can and do go to great lengths to spy on other governments.

The German government, shaken from its naiveté by the revelation that the NSA eavesdropped on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone, is now making a real effort, and spending substantial sums, protecting itself from foreign intelligence services.

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