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Google Engineer Wins NSA Award, Then Says NSA Should Be Abolished 297

Posted by timothy
from the well-if-you'd-like-my-opinion-gentleman dept.
First time accepted submitter MetalliQaZ writes "Last week, Dr. Joseph Bonneau learned that he had won the NSA's first annual "Science of Security (SoS) Competition." The competition, which aims to honor the best 'scientific papers about national security' as a way to strengthen NSA collaboration with researchers in academia, honored Bonneau for his paper on the nature of passwords. And how did Bonneau respond to being honored by the NSA? By expressing, in an honest and bittersweet blog post, his revulsion at what the NSA has become: 'Simply put, I don't think a free society is compatible with an organisation like the NSA in its current form.'"
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Google Engineer Wins NSA Award, Then Says NSA Should Be Abolished

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 28, 2013 @08:50AM (#44405553)

    Google is a huge part of the surveillance machine. If you oppose surveillance, aren't you morally bound to stop enriching a big part of the problem? Is this what you signed up for? To help them build the apparatus of tyranny?

    Maybe a mass wave of resignations among the 9 would effect positive change? Maybe we are all responsible to do our part to stop this monstrosity?

    I am afraid to post this comment. I am sure that I will get categorized as a dissident for it. I would say a lot more, but my freedom of speech is chilled.

    • by Nerdfest (867930) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @09:58AM (#44405855)

      More accurately, the internet is part of the surveillance machine. Google is picked on regularly as they're the biggest collector of information, but they also have pretty much the best record for privacy.

    • by mcgrew (92797) * on Sunday July 28, 2013 @10:21AM (#44405999) Homepage Journal

      I am afraid to post this comment. I am sure that I will get categorized as a dissident for it.

      You are the heart of the problem. The brave aren't easily terrorized. The government has acted criminally, and I voice my dissent publicly.

      Not that it will do any good.

      • by Common Joe (2807741) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @03:51PM (#44407885) Journal

        I applaud you for your comment and your bravery, but I must correct you on one thing:

        The brave aren't easily terrorized.

        Yes, they are. Here is a quote of quote from the Dictator's Handbook [dictatorshandbook.net]:

        Some men and women have great courage ... But the tyrant has ways of countering even this. Among those who do not fear death, some fear torture, disgrace, or humiliation. And even those who do not fear these things for themselves may fear them for their fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, wives, and children. The tyrant uses all these tools.

        Even ignoring any threats by the government, I am always worried about the health and well being of my wife, my brother, his wife, their unborn child, my young goddaughter, my aging parents, my ill in-laws, etc. Being brave can mean watching your family get hurt. Being brave can mean your family hating you even if you are doing the right thing. Perhaps it's a medical thing like in my case. (Let's just say my mother in-law and I have disagreements about what is best for her.) Perhaps they hooked on drugs. Perhaps they have a gambling problem. Speaking in terms of a repressive government: having your whole family turn against you because you stand up for what is right is a very difficult thing to do. In fact, the water gets really muddy... is it better to stand up for your fellow countrymen or to keep your loved ones "safe" and alive? Sometimes, you can pick only one. A choice you make might remove their freedoms or their lives.

        Unfortunately, I don't find the picture isn't quite black and white as a lot of others do.

  • Politicians .... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 28, 2013 @08:51AM (#44405557)

    From the Winner of the prize:

    "And like many American citizens I’m ashamed we’ve let our politicians sneak the country down this path."

    From some of the politicians:

    Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) : "It’s called protecting America," Feinstein said at a Capitol Hill news conference.

    "Protecting America!" - that's right up there with "Think of the Children!"

    "Right now I think everyone should just calm down and understand this isn't anything that's brand new," Reid said.

    Al Gore
    In digital era, privacy must be a priority. Is it just me, or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous?

    Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said in a statement:

    "This type of secret bulk data collection is an outrageous breach of Americans’ privacy."

    Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he was "glad" the NSA was collecting phone records.

    "I don’t mind Verizon turning over records to the government if the government is going to make sure that they try to match up a known terrorist phone with somebody in the United States," Graham said in an interview on "Fox and Friends."

    The "Catbert" quote....

    Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) also claimed that reports of the NSA collecting phone records was "nothing particularly new."

    "Every member of the United States Senate has been advised of this," Chambliss said. "And to my knowledge we have not had any citizen who has registered a complaint relative to the gathering of this information."

    Bold mine. I think Saxby doesn't understand "secret surveillance" means.

    Senator Ted Cruz
    Disturbing pattern emerging. Govt wants your DNA, prayer content & now...phone records?

    And lastly, Mike Lee:

    Mike Lee
    #NSA surveillance of #Verizon cell phone records illustrates why I voted against Patriot Act

    I think everyone who said he was "UnAmerican" or UnPatriotic" should apologize.

  • Bonneau's paper (Score:5, Informative)

    by hobarrera (2008506) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @09:05AM (#44405607) Homepage

    The paper in question is available here [jbonneau.com] in case anybody is interested why the NSA granted him the award.

    • Re:Bonneau's paper (Score:4, Interesting)

      by wmac1 (2478314) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @09:20AM (#44405655)

      Very good work of destroying the whole point of privacy. And who the fuck allowed him access to 70 million passwords? Google? Shame on google then.

      • by thaylin (555395)

        As someone I assume is in the tech industry, you should know that some people in companies have access to the passwords the company stores, right?

        • by wmac1 (2478314)

          Access to the information should be very strictly controlled and logged. Let alone bringing out 70 million people's passwords and use it for a paper.

          My friend is administrator of a national health care database. He has never (been allowed to?) run a query to see his own records. He was forced to fill a form and formally request a copy.

          • by thaylin (555395)
            Couple things, just because he has to do though those steps does not mean there are not others who dont have to go through those steps. In addition that requirement is because it would be a potential HIPPA violation.

            At some point in a company there is someone who you must trust with the access to the data, or you dont keep the data.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by BSDstef (263739)

        First line of the Abstract:

        We report on the largest corpus of user-chosen passwords ever studied, consisting of anonymized password histograms representing almost 70 million Yahoo! users, [...]

      • Re:Bonneau's paper (Score:4, Insightful)

        by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Sunday July 28, 2013 @10:58AM (#44406207) Homepage Journal

        Very good work of destroying the whole point of privacy. And who the fuck allowed him access to 70 million passwords? Yahoo? Shame on Yahoo then.

        Fixed that for you.

        Though, also, I disagree with your first sentence. The better we understand the use of passwords by larger numbers of real people, the better we can design systems that exploit the strengths of passwords which avoiding their weaknesses -- or perhaps it will motivate us to choose other approaches if it demonstrates that passwords simply do not provide sufficient security.

        This is valuable information for people who want to build secure, privacy-preserving systems, which is the complete antithesis of "destroying the whole point of privacy."

  • That post struck me as pretty abjectly apologetic for the NSA. Sure "I don’t think a free society is compatible with an organisation like the NSA in its current form."; but then, same paragraph no less, a bunch of fuzz about how visiting the NSA was pretty neat, and the engineers there seemed like a smart, likeable bunch, who asked good questions, and the problem is clearly with Politicians, not with the NSA (lets just not talk about the...somewhat creative...approach to informing anyone outside the N

    • by russotto (537200)

      That post struck me as pretty abjectly apologetic for the NSA. Sure "I donâ(TM)t think a free society is compatible with an organisation like the NSA in its current form."; but then, same paragraph no less, a bunch of fuzz about how visiting the NSA was pretty neat, and the engineers there seemed like a smart, likeable bunch, who asked good questions, and the problem is clearly with Politicians, not with the NSA (lets just not talk about the...somewhat creative...approach to informing anyone outside th

  • by tebee (1280900) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @09:11AM (#44405629)

    Interestingly, out of the first 13 posts on this topic, only 2 have been by named individuals, the rest by anonymous cowards.

    Is everyone so scared of getting on the NSA's "of interest" list, no one want's to be identified? Maybe our new tyrannical overlords have won already.

    • Why must it be fear? Why can't the motive simply be "What I post on Slashdot is nobody's business"?
      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        Why can't the motive simply be "What I post on Slashdot is nobody's business"?

        If it's nobody's business, why post it?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      -----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
      Hash: SHA1

      Personally, I don't post here with an account anymore because slashdot is circling the drain lately and it depresses me. But I can understand that thinking, which is why I've started signing important posts. I'm not afraid of my government. They should be afraid of *me*.

      - - Anthony (0x076F9E89)
      -----BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE-----
      Version: GnuPG v2.0.20 (GNU/Linux)

      iEUEARECAAYFAlH1LtkACgkQXprtVgdvnolpnACXUDIjTN6f3tPW+duJ3uxRaxT7
      igCfXCK4/iI6c2aSBnGZJTT/NV0Vgl8=
      =ohKj
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    • Interestingly, out of the first 13 posts on this topic, only 2 have been by named individuals, the rest by anonymous cowards.

      This may be caused by fear of the NSA as you speculate, but I have noticed a lot more comments by ACs in recent months. I was recently threatened on Slashdot for supporting someone who's opinion isn't popular. I didn't know the guy and could care less who he is. I only cared about the comment he made at that particular point in time. An AC threatened to bomb my karma into oblivion. Perhaps AC is the only way to post anything of quality of late if you're hated by the Slashdot community and don't have en

  • by gweihir (88907) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @09:33AM (#44405703)

    If the NSA cannot even accurately profile somebody they are about to give an award to and predict his response, what good are they? It seems all this massive surveillance is not only hugely immoral and dangerous, it also seems to be completely broken with regard to its stated mission. WTF are they collecting this data for?

    • If the NSA cannot even accurately profile somebody they are about to give an award to and predict his response, what good are they?

      Really? That is such bullshit. He wasn't being profiled in the first place, accurately or not. He was receiving an award for the work he did

      Your argument assumes the NSA's goal is fascism, which if it were, we would have a lot more evidence of actual fascism - rather than just the potential for fascism.

      • by gweihir (88907)

        Actually, having thought about this again, I think they profiled him accurately, but the information failed to be communicated within the organization because of a dysfunctional organizational (and secrecy) structure. As to fascism, is there any other possible form of government that does require this level of surveillance and is not at the very least closely related to fascism? Historically, there has not been one and it seems highly doubtful the US is in the process of inventing something new in that rega

    • Re:Profiling fail (Score:4, Interesting)

      by joebagodonuts (561066) <cmkrnl@gma i l . c om> on Sunday July 28, 2013 @09:59AM (#44405859) Homepage Journal
      Are you kidding me? The NSA loved this blog post. Hell, they may have even wrote it.

      In summary, it said NSA good, politicians in Washington bad. The same politicians who are now getting people riled up, all because they want to take the NSA down a notch or two.

      Snowden's "leaks" and the controversy in their wake, are part of a carefully thought-out campaign to take power away from the NSA.

      ITM!

    • by Livius (318358)

      It's to have the information ready at hand when they start to profile him.

      Which, of course, is just as evil, but, as you point out, less effective.

  • by erikkemperman (252014) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @09:34AM (#44405707)

    I was wondering about the relationship between NSA and academia, only the other way around. It's probable that they've got their eye on relevant courses (math, cs) and must by now employ a significant number of top-shelf scientists -- whose insights are not likely shared academically, certainly not in a timely fashion.

    This seems to me quite detrimental to scientific progress in these areas.

    • by thaylin (555395)
      I know at the Uni I work for we have a couple labs dedicated to their projects. They give a great deal of funding to Unis and students specifically to work on projects. Just look up the NSF grants.
  • Its priorities. The US has reached such an ethical crossroads: either strong state security or extensive individual liberty. Can't have both.

  • by Livius (318358) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @10:22AM (#44406005)

    The NSA is just like a too big to fail bank. They believe they no longer need to hide their evil nature and criminal activity. They are, regrettably, correct in their belief.

    The Wall Street banks, private sector entities with (in theory) strict oversight, gambled away other people's money, and then the victims were forced to hand over taxes to replace the money the banks lost. Expect the "punishment" that the NSA receives now that their bubble (secrecy) has collapsed to be equally punitive.

  • And they have decided to discard the 'free' society for the 'security' of the NSA. This will not effect next year's election, or those in 2016. A republican or a democrat will occupy the white house and the vast majority of seats in congress... and life will muddle on.

  • Got to hand it to the NSA, creating this competition was a PR windfall. Err, no wait, I think I need to go check on the definition of windfall.
  • http://www.pdfernhout.net/recognizing-irony-is-a-key-to-transcending-militarism.html [pdfernhout.net]
    ----
    Likewise, even United States three-letter agencies like the NSA and the CIA, as well as their foreign counterparts, are becoming ironic institutions in many ways. Despite probably having more computing power per square foot than any other place in the world, they seem not to have thought much about the implications of all that computer power and organized information to transform the world into a place of abundance for all. Cheap computing makes possible just about cheap everything else, as does the ability to make better designs through shared computing.
    ----

    http://www.pdfernhout.net/a-rant-on-financial-obesity-and-Project-Virgle.html [pdfernhout.net]
    ----
    Look at Project Virgle and "An Open Source Planet":
    http://www.google.com/virgle/opensource.html [google.com]
    Even just in jest some of the most financially obese people on the planet (who have built their company with thousands of servers all running GNU/Linux free software) apparently could not see any other possibility but seriously becoming even more financially obese off the free work of others on another planet (as well as saddling others with financial obesity too :-). And that jest came almost half a *century* after the "Triple Revolution" letter of 1964 about the growing disconnect between effort and productivity (or work and financial fitness):
    http://www.educationanddemocracy.org/FSCfiles/C_CC2a_TripleRevolution.htm [educationa...ocracy.org]
    Even not having completed their PhDs, the top Google-ites may well take many more *decades* to shake off that ideological discipline. I know it took me decades (and I am still only part way there. :-) As with my mother, no doubt Googlers have lived through periods of scarcity of money relative to their needs to survive or be independent scholars or effective agents of change. Is it any wonder they probably think being financially obese is a *good* thing, not an indication of either personal or societal pathology? :-( ...
    So what is Google Headquarters in Mountain View, California but a little temporary space habitat bubble of happiness for regular employees, but floating on a sea of relative misery for everyone else planetwide who supports it? Can't we as a society or Google/Virgle as an aspiration do better that that? And even within that bubble are emerging issues. How long can a company expect to run on twenty-somethings without kids?
    Google-ites and other financially obese people IMHO need to take a good look at the junk food capitalist propaganda they are eating and serving up to others, as in saying (even in jest):
    http://www.google.com/virgle/opensource.html [google.com]
    "we should profit from others' use of our innovations, and we should buy or lease others' intellectual property whenever it advances our own goals" -- even while running one of the biggest post-scarcity enterprises on Earth based on free-as-in-freedom software. :-(
    ---

    See also, for the future both of them together may create, the upcoming movie "Elysium":
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elysium_(film) [wikipedia.org]
    ----
    In the year 2154, the very wealthy live on Elysium, a Stanford torus[8][9] high-tech space station governed by President Patel (Faran Tahir), in a utopian setting which includes access to private medical machines that offer instant cures, while everyone else lives below on the overpopulated, ruined, "Third World slum"[7] Ear

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