Lesson from the Wikileaks debacle: Privacy is so 20th century…opportunities?

By: ispeculatornew
Date posted: 12.02.2010 (5:00 am) | Write a Comment  (4 Comments)

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It’s been fascinating to see how things have evolved. Wikileaks had pulled off some impressive moves by publishing highly confidential military data regarding Iraq & Afghanistan operations. But the extent of what was leaked this past weekend is truly embarrassing for US and many foreign high level politicians. You can read about the extent of the leaks here but I think to say that in a few months, Wikileaks has published more data than any other organization in the world. You could certainly argue that what they did is wrong and some US politicians are even calling for the group to be classified as a terrorist group. I’m certainly against the publication of these documents but I don’t see that as being the point in this whole story.

Google in China

Remember how Google decided to pull out of China? What was reported as the main cause for the pullout was a series of systematic attacks originating from China. The attacks had many different goals but one of them was gathering data about foreign activists. It was a surprise to some but I have written about cyber warfare and how it is transforming the military and creating huge opportunities.

Common points

I see a very important lesson here. Here are my conclusions:

-Both Google and the US government, which some could argue are the top private and public organizations in the world suffered a cyber attack on a scale beyond their wildest nightmares.
-Both cannot defend themselves effectively as offenders are outside of their jurisdiction
-They do not know the extent of the damage
-They cannot guarantee that such an attack won’t take place again soon
-The targeted data was some of the most critical information
-In both cases, there is no doubt that many more attacks are going on

The lesson

Privacy is over. It might have existed in the 20th century but I think that we have to expect that any data could be released. How? It just takes one individual or one breach. In this era of lightning speed, one individual with high access or one tiny access into a network is enough to get access to data. And as Wikileaks is proving,  those going after the data are not satisfied with just a few files. They are getting the whole network. I think that we unfortunately have to assume that all data could eventually be breached. And yes I mean your web activity, your online & offline purchases, your medical records, your tax statements, bank accounts, etc. It is all one breach away from being in the public domain. And once it’s out there, it’s too late. You can take it down but it will have been downloaded thousands of times and republished elsewhere.

You no longer have any excuses. If you are doing something that you could not live with if your neighbor, wife or family found out about, stop it.

I’m not trying to scare you, despite what it might look like. But I think that there have been enough examples for us to assume that all data was no longer secure. Changing privacy laws for networks such as Facebook is still a good thing and I would continue to work on improving the standards but please don’t think it’s enough.

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  1. Comment by VeRo — December 2, 2010 @ 8:48 am

    As much as I’m kind of scared by all that, I must confess I think you’re right. This is also why I think we should require stronger security control on the Web. In my opinion, privacy should stay, not to hide anything wrong, but as a matter of respect.

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  3. Comment by IS — December 3, 2010 @ 4:52 am

    @VeRo – Yes, hopefully some kind of privacy will remain…!

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