Businesses need to radically rethink their reliance on communications systems such as Gmail and Outlook to avoid falling victim to intelligence agencies' snooping, according to ex-Navy Seal and Silent Circle chief executive Mike Janke.
Janke said campaigns such as PRISM were only able to function because of the way businesses store data, adding that there are measures companies could and should take to protect themselves.
"We know that the capabilities of the current internet infrastructure mean the world's intelligence agencies no longer try to do brute force decryption. We know crypto works, which is why intelligence agencies have gone away from trying to collect encrypted data and decrypt it," he said.
"The latest numbers coming out of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) suggest it would take all of the world's supercomputers about 100 years to decrypt a single message. It's just not practical for them to try and decrypt things. The new target is metadata as it can tell them so much more. We want the rest of the world to understand simply because things are convenient like email, even if its encrypted, that it's not really secure because of the metadata."
The Silent Circle chief listed the misguided approach as a key reason many other intelligence agencies are likely to have similar schemes or have aided the US agency, listing it a key reason Silent Circle stopped running its Secure Mail service.
"The issue is that many government and intelligence agencies around the world are doing this and nobody knows because they're using secret courts to enact their powers, so the public never sees them," he said.
"We know how they work and we felt in danger from many, many countries and many security agencies. That's why we had to do scorched earth, there was no way around it."
He added that the way intelligence agencies operate means operations such as PRISM will continue to run until governments tell them to stop. "I know the NSA and GCHQ have a mission, an important one, I want them to protect citizens but since 9/11 they've gone too far. But, it's not necessarily their fault, they do what they do and if they're given an inch they'll take it. If they're given a mile, legislatively, they'll take that mile," he said.
"They will go to whatever extremes are allowed in the letter of the law when doing their job, so if they're allowed to collect all the world's data, they will. It's up to government and legislators to put controls and measures in place. In America and Europe we have the ability to control that. We have to educate the world about what's going on, about how much of people's privacy is gone, which is most of it, and actually have a calm conversation with governments to try and get it back."
Janke's comments come just after tech company Google argued Gmail users should not expect privacy, during a court case with US rights group Consumer Watchdog.
PRISM is a notorious data-collection campaign run by the NSA. It is believed to have siphoned vast amounts of data from numerous technology companies, including Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Apple and Facebook. The NSA claims, however, that its agents only saw 0.00004 percent of the world's web traffic while conducting their PRISM missions.
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