Hi NSA! How are you today?

According to the documents whistleblower Snowden released, the NSA is in fact capable of decrypting a lot of encrypted things. Not by actually breaking the encryption, but by cheating – why bother decrypting things when you can get your hands on it before it is encrypted, courtesy of a manufacturer?

It does make you wonder; the irony doesn’t escape me either, I’m posting this on Blogger, a Google owned service – and while Google has always had the shiny “do no evil” statement, again, you have to wonder how many fingers the NSA and other 3 letter acronym agencies have in Google’s pies.

You might wonder and say “why does this matter?” – because you live a regular old life, you don’t know any secrets, and heck, those pictures you send grandma of her new grandson aren’t all that interesting to the NSA, right?

Well, yes and no.

No, because after all, they are just pictures of your kid. Yes, because with technology being what it is, predictions can be made based on the little factoid you have a kid. Silly example maybe, but let’s use a different one.

You wake up in the morning, you have yourself a cup of coffee, and read your newspaper. Big deal, you say, but it’s easy enough to find out which newspaper you prefer. Some papers are more liberal than others; just this one thing can already indicate your political preferences. You hop in your car (the one that’s still not paid off, yet another item of interest, you still owe money on it), and drive your way to your office, passing under e-toll gates. Handy things those, you can just keep driving and it automatically deducts from a pre-paid card or sends you a monthly bill.

It also tells interested parties where your vehicle is, has been, and given enough data, where it’s most likely to be in the morning. Don’t buy that? If you drive the same route every day, chances are your routine won’t vary that much – the variances can be accounted for and discarded, the remainder is a relatively accurate depiction of your morning commute.

Big deal, you say, so they know where my vehicle is at. True, they also know you’re in it. Based on the above “routine depiction”, it’s easy enough to take your last trip, compare it to the base line, and predict with a reasonable amount of accuracy whether it’s you driving or not.

Okay so, big deal right? Maybe – given the amount of paperwork floating around that comes with having a job, it’s also easy to find where you work, what you do, and the government being the government, they also have access to a lot more than just that kind of data. Your taxes, your SSN – which basically means everything you have ever had to use your SSN for to sign up on? Yeah, they can find out what they want to know that way too.

Big deal, right?

Of course this is just me speculating wildly, but over the years it’s become clear that the US and the UK have been, and still are, engaged in surveillance on a massive scale. Not foreign, but domestic. You know one indication of a police state? Domestic surveillance kept secret. Which it has been, until someone blew a whistle and exposed a lot of dirty laundry. The kind of dirty laundry that should make you think twice, heck, three times, maybe four if you feel up to it, about the kind of world we live in.

You could say: “Well you’re just getting ready to start Obama bashing!” – no, not really. You see, the damage was done under Bush the younger. Bush the younger being the idiot that he is (and he is), who was never in control to begin with. Cheney and his cronies were. Bush was just the schmuck they could control. And given enough time, the NSA and other alphabet soup agencies can pretty much start any program they like and keep it from any new presidents taking office easy enough. And even if said president wants it to stop, it’s easy enough to dismantle some parts, move it around, and start the whole thing up again. That is, of course, if Obama would be the type to put a stop to it, which he doesn’t seem willing to do (or at least, entertain the notion of doing). Then again, it’s not like you can just go up and ask him.

Of course this day and age one only has to say “yeah but it’s to help the fight against terrorism” to escape any real close scrutiny; but again I’ll go back to saying: it makes you wonder.

There’s plenty of people out there who believe that 9/11 didn’t go down like the news reported; there’s plenty of them that believe it was an inside job – including some prominent engineers and other people you wouldn’t describe as conspiracy theorist nutjobs. For all you know though they might be, but you do have to wonder (again) about the timing of some of these things.

And you’d figure with the death of Osama that this whole “war on terrorism” thing would wind down some; instead it’s gone into overdrive. And really, it’s a war that has already been lost. The fact it exists already caused it to be lost right off the bat.

So what’s the point in all this jibba-jabba? Nothing really, just dumping my thoughts into electronic form – and maybe to make some people go “hmm, I gotta look into that”. I could say don’t trust your government, don’t trust digital communications even if they are encrypted – but I won’t. I’m thinking it though, which may be something we all need to do some more of.

Ben van Staveren

A somewhat odd traveler, wanderer, wonderer and all-around sarcastic pain in peoples' asses, most of the time. Keeps busy with IT security, random acts of geekery, and other things that have nothing whatsoever to do with IT, computers, or electronics. Can currently be found residing in Jakarta, Indonesia.