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Douglas Caddy

Important interview with Snowden about surveillance

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Snowden: Governments are realizing that mass surveillance isn't really effective. They are moving from mass surveillance to what intelligence agencies are hoping will be their new panacea: hacking. But it is mass hacking and not really targeted hacking as they usually say. We have seen it in these darknet market takedowns and other joint operations by the EU and U.S.

DER SPIEGEL: So, it's all about cracking encryption now?

Snowden: Not cracking encryption -- the agencies are trying to bypass the encryption. They are looking for weak points on the device you use to see what you are writing before you encrypt your message. What they actually do is take over a website, infect it with a malicious software, and when you visit that website because, for example, you received a link, you get hacked. Then they own your computer or your phone. You paid for it, but they use it. I think this is far better than mass surveillance.


Snowden: Mass surveillance was incredibly cheap. It operates sort of freely, invisibly, constantly -- and there was no real defense other than using encryption schemes. Attacking these browsers, phones and computers is very much an expensive proposition.

DER SPIEGEL: But you just said yourself that a lack of money isn't the main problem for intelligence services.

Snowden: But even they can't use this to spy on everyone in the world all the time. The new approach makes life harder for the intelligence agencies in a good way. It creates a natural discipline that forces them to decide: Is this person I want to spy on really worth the cost? There was, for instance, this jihadi group that used an encryption package called Mujahedeen Secrets. That is the kind of thing that they should go after because if you are installing Mujahedeen Secrets, you are probably part of the mujahedeen, right?


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