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Academics Should Not Remain Silent On Government Hacking 135

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the too-busy-writing-papers dept.
ananyo writes "The Guardian's technology editor, Charles Arthur, asks why researchers have remained largely silent in the wake of the revelation that the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology's standard for random numbers used for cryptography had been weakened by the NSA: 'The nature of the subversions sounds abstruse: the random-number generator, the 'Dual EC DRBG' standard, had been hacked by the NSA and the UK's GCHQ so that its output would not be as random as it should have been. That might not sound like much, but if you are trying to break an encrypted message, the knowledge that it is hundreds or thousands of times weaker than advertised is a great encouragement.' Arthur attributes the silence of UK academics, at least, to pressure from GCHQ. He goes on to say: 'For those who do care, White and Matthew Green, who teaches cryptography at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, have embarked on an ambitious effort to clean up the mess — one that needs help. They have created a non-profit organization called, which aims to recruit experts to provide technical assistance for security projects in the public interest, especially open-source security software.'"
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Academics Should Not Remain Silent On Government Hacking

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  • by Desler (1608317) on Wednesday December 18, 2013 @12:16PM (#45726649)

    Yeah, keep attacking those "lefties" while the public continues to be robbed by the bankers and other corrupt businesses. People like you are what is wrong with this country by worrying more about the boogeymen "lefties" over the people who are really ruining this country.

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Wednesday December 18, 2013 @12:57PM (#45727173) Homepage

    When this happens, I guarantee that some people are bilking the system.

    We also know that whoever it is isn't the faculty: If you adjust for inflation, the change in faculty salaries over the last 5 years is somewhere between 0 and -5%.

    The costs that have been going up dramatically include:
    - Buildings, specifically the kinds of buildings that help sell a college to potential students like gyms and newer dorms that are more like living off campus rather than a small room to yourself + a roommate.
    - Administration and student services. For example,
    - Athletics, which are in some schools a huge business. In many states, the highest paid government employee is the head coach of the state university's football team (e.g. Ohio State's Urban Meyer rakes in $4.3 million a year, approximately 30 times the salary of the governor).

    Also quite relevant for publicly funded institutions is that public funding for those institutions has been dropping like a rock.

  • by macbeth66 (204889) on Wednesday December 18, 2013 @01:03PM (#45727229)

    Well, if you want to see research done without government (public) funding

    He didn't say that. He said;

    I want nothing more than to see academia liberated from government control

    The idea behind public research, was to fund worthwhile research that would not otherwise get funding and then back off and let them do their ting without fear of reprisals. You know, independent. A noble ideal, that sadly, in this severely bifurcated society, is almost impossible.

  • by WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) on Wednesday December 18, 2013 @01:45PM (#45727719)

    Every single one of us has felt the hesitation to speak out agianst what the NSA is doing lest be experience some sort of retaliation, typically being mechanically put on a "list" what is used in other contexts for other decisions. The most basic one is getting on the "no fly list" but one imagines that other lists exist also, for instance, the "do not fund research" list.

    THAT'S what a chilling effect is. It's a self perpetuating thing, because the more dissent is stifled, the more the faux consensous becomes reality, the more license the chillers see themselves as having been given by society.

    I'll never forget the CIA film of Saddam Hussein assembling Anyone Who's Anyone In Iraq into an auditorium then calling out names of individuals, who , when they appropriately stood up having been addressed, were escorted away by security personnel to their summary executions.

    As soon as the luminaries understood what was happening, they all stood and started to applaud this monster, chanting his name, swearing fidelity at the top of their lungs, hoping that such would make it less likely that they would ever appear on any such list and, if their name was on The List, they might somehow induce a last minute change of mind.

    That's the chilling effect of compiling lists of people and assigning them properties- "enemy", "hub", "individual of special concern should X Y or Z be happening".

    Every single one of us, whether we admit it or not, has felt a pause, a fear, the need to calculate and perhaps somehow soften or even self censor what we're saying WRT the government and the NSA for fear of such lists and their possible future consequences.

    This is one of the most insidious and well documented effects of surveillance and no one is immune, and- and this is significant- they know it.

    This is why the ability to spy on anyone all the time without anyone outside of people you command, or who fear you, knowing what you're doing has to go. This is why total transparency into who does what when why for how long without a scintilla of exception needs to be implemented into the spy agencies. We need spies and spying because we have real enemies who really want to do unspeakably evil things and will given the chance. We have to stop those people. In order to achieve that, we need to stop the spy agencies using the spy agencies to undermine their own democracy however inadvertently. If they were capable of doing this, then they wouldn't have hounded Binney and Drake and Kiriakou ; they would have listened to them. []

    Right now, the biggest threat to the continued effectiveness of our spy agencies is the culture which has ascended and become the dominant one in the those spy agencies.


  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Wednesday December 18, 2013 @01:56PM (#45727843) Homepage Journal

    So, I guess now would be an appropriate time to take that whole "Land of the Free, Home of the Brave" part out of the Pledge?

  • "Yes Academics..." (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GameboyRMH (1153867) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {hmryobemag}> on Wednesday December 18, 2013 @02:01PM (#45727903) Journal

    "Tell us how you feel. If you have any criticisms you've been bottling up, then please write about them in journals, or better yet discuss them with your friends over an electronic communications medium. We'd hate to go unaware of any people with 'interesting' viewpoints." - The NSA.

The trouble with opportunity is that it always comes disguised as hard work. -- Herbert V. Prochnow