“So what they do is they pay people to find security vulnerabilities but instead of fixing them, instead of securing every one of them, they abuse those for their own private programs and so they’ve cracked into other countries computers. They’ve cracked into military installations. They have basically initiated cyber war in a way that nobody’s talking about because it’s not some kid in a basement somewhere. It’s President Obama.” -Aaron Swartz, War for the Web interview, July 10, 2012
The PRISM program and Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks have left many Americans (not to mention Europeans) wondering the extent of the government’s infiltration of software and communications platforms on the Internet. Facts are emerging that illustrate that the governments pays hackers to find exploits in commonly used software for the purpose to taking over consumer computers. In addition, Microsoft has been working with the NSA to provide access to Skype audio and Video, not to mention “encrypted” chats in Outlook. This is of course all done in the name of security, combating terrorism, and protecting intellectual property from foreign powers.
There’s a clear loser in all this, and it’s you and me. We have created a system where any of our computers can be used against us without our knowledge or will. In addition, while many companies offer hackers bounty for alerting them to bugs in their software, most companies cannot afford to pay the same bounty that governments around the world pay, so the chances are hackers will turn to governments with exploits, instead of giving companies an opportunity to fix them. That means we are essentially institutionalizing exploits that will affect your computer usage, and potentially cost you and I lots of money. It’s guerrilla tactics by the largest nation on earth, at the expense of its citizens.