News / USA

New Leaks Highlight Internet Security Weakness

An undated aerial handout photo shows the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters building in Fort Meade, Maryland.
An undated aerial handout photo shows the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters building in Fort Meade, Maryland.
The latest revelations from exiled former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden highlight security weaknesses in some of the world’s most popular Internet networks.

According to the Washington Post, the NSA and its British counterpart have tapped into links between Google and Yahoo data centers and collected text, audio, video and vast amounts of other data.

“Technologists and people who work on privacy in general have known that this can be done and may have been going on for a long time,” said Lance Hoffman, head of the George Washington University Cyberspace Security Policy and Research Institute.

Hoffman says that while the companies store data in secure facilities around the world, and even have some of their own fiber optic networks, at certain points they travel through the same cables as the rest of the Internet’s data.

“Whenever you’re moving things from point A to point B, there’s a possibility of an intercept,” he added.

NSA says its data collection is legal and is used solely to look for clues that would prevent terrorist attacks and other security threats.

While little is known about how the spy agencies made those intercepts, the routers that direct Internet traffic are one possibility, said Jeff Tjiputra, computer scientist at the University of Maryland-University College.

“I have known hackers that can hack into routers that change the code that will make it a device that transmits traffic to a third party,” he said.

“At this point,” he added, “it goes back to what we always thought: that if you send anything on the Internet, it’s the same as if you’re sending a postcard. Anybody that handles that mail can see it.”

A Yahoo spokesperson said the company has “strict controls in place to protect the security of our data centers.”

Google said it is extending encryption across more of its services.

But as more and more information goes to distributed “cloud” computing networks, computer experts see both risks and benefits.
 
“I think many folks in the security community look at cloud computing as inherently more risky,” Syracuse University computer engineering professor Shiu-Kai Chin.

“Does that mean we shouldn’t use it? No. If I want to store my videos and my music up there, I’m really delighted to do that. Would I want to store the nuclear launch codes for the United States and the keys to the U.S. treasury? Probably not.”

Hoffman said he was not surprised that security agencies were able to crack into Google and Yahoo. “The surprise to me is that it’s taken so long to galvanize the public to have the conversation, to put in place the proper controls,” he said.

He says technology has gotten ahead of us. But he adds, “The technology always gets out ahead of us. People don’t generally write laws until they see something that needs to be organized or controlled in some way.”

“Basically, it’s time to have this discussion, to do it fast, to get agreement on controls that guarantee civil liberties” and address the privacy concerns raised by the NSA revelations.

“In some sense, privacy is a precursor to freedom. If you don’t have privacy, you don’t have freedom.”

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs