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What will be hot at RSA? NSA/tech industry battle; cyberwarfare issues dominate

Edward Snowden leaks, cryptolocker, cybercrime among urgent topics at RSA Conference

By , Network World
February 20, 2014 04:42 PM ET

Network World - It's almost a shame that former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden won't be at the upcoming RSA Conference since the disclosures he's leaked about the NSA's mass surveillance practices involving the U.S. high-tech industry are directly influencing a preponderance of conference agenda this year.

Scott Charney
Microsoft corporate vice president, trustworthy computing, Scott Charney is expected to discuss how trust in technology has been badly undermined.

But Snowden, considered a whistleblower by some and traitor by others, still seems be holed up in snowy Russia, having fled there and given refuge by President Vladimir Putin. But the effect of the NSA documents Snowden leaked over the past eight months — that the NSA works with Google, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, Facebook and others to collect information about non-US. citizens in particular, or otherwise vacuums up all data possible — has emerged as a top privacy and security concern. In his keynote at the RSA Conference this year, Scott Charney, Microsoft’s corporate vice president, trustworthy computing, is expected to take up the topic of government surveillance, because, according to the description of the Microsoft talk, “trust in technology has been badly undermined by public disclosures of widespread government surveillance programs.”

(Check out all of the stories that come out of RSA on this page.)

“I think it’s safe to say that the 95% of the world’s population subject to espionage by the NSA is not happy about it,” says Tatu Ylonen, CEO at SSH Communications, based in Helsinki, Finland, who will be at RSA. RSA Conference is global in scope and will be attended by many international visitors and companies, including Chinese networking giant Huawei which will have a pavilion there with other Chinese companies, and the exhibit floor will also have a section carved out for German IT security providers. Huawei has been essentially been shut out of the U.S. federal market, primarily due to allegations from the NSA that Huawei products represent a threat to the security of the U.S. and its allies because Huawei has close ties to the Chinese government and facilitates cyber-spying.

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Ylonen points out there’s a backlash in Europe because of the NSA cyber-spying that’s extending not just to U.S.-based IT service providers but security providers as well. It’s leading to an erosion of U.S. competitiveness, Ylonen observes.

While this might be seen as an advantage to non-U.S. companies, the simple fact is that mass surveillance by other governments for cyber-espionage purposes also appears to be occurring in China, Russia, Great Britain and probably France and Israel, if not other places, Ylonen points out. He says the effect of the Snowden document leaks to the media about the NSA is resulting in a “call to action” to the high-tech industry to come up with new technologies to thwart mass surveillance, lest the world end up like the infamous surveillance state of East Germany in the Cold War era.

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