Took me a while to clear up time and read Dave Aitel’s post on his experience with the NSA as compared to the interview that Edward Snowden did with James Bamford of Wired. Make sure you do too, and then come back here for a quick reality adjustment.
So, just to set things straight: I agree with the first point that talk about how working at the NSA consists of abiding with a metric ton of rules, regulations and bureaucratic nightmares. It’s also true for most modern western intelligence agencies (your mileage may vary of course, and this is based on personal subjective observations of course).
However, the NSA (and other agencies in other countries) know very well how to bypass these restrictions, and are very happy to use 3rd party resources to do the dirty work for them. That’s exactly how shady (again – my opinion) companies work in the market of intelligence collections, “lawful interception”, exploit research and development, etc.
This also enables overcoming the difficulties posed by the second point in the article, which pertains to the US’s ability to spy on China (and other countries). In order to provide a more cohesive intelligence landscape, you can’t just focus collection efforts on military and government, as civilian infrastructure is always part of the play for both sides (hey – we just talked about using 3rd parties for intelligence. Guess what? The same thing happens with other countries). As such, “crossing the line” is a needed practice that is often outsourced in terms of liability, legality and ethics, to entities that are willing to take said liability/legality/ethics upon themselves.
And just to steal the closing soundbite: “Every country in the world is engaged in cyber espionage to the full extent of its capabilities. The US just happens to be the one that got caught. This time.“
As noted before, for some reason beyond my understanding I am going to be speaking at both SOURCE Barcelona and Brucon in September, as well as in Excaliburcon in China (you guys must really like this whole crime meets state thing huh?).
So, down to business, SOURCE Barcelona is going to be awesome – It’s going to be my first SOURCE I’m really looking forward to getting back together with some of my friends (Chris, Wim, Jayson… the old Wuxi pwnage team en-scale), and meet people I wanted to pick their brains in person (Brian Honan – especially because I’ll miss his talk…).
Next up is Brucon. I’ve said enough about Brucon in the last conference schedule update, nevertheless, it’s shaping up to beat it’s last years’ reputation. Expecting great talks, great crowd, and awesome beer! As far as talks I’m looking forward to – will definitely catch up with Joe which I missed at DefCon, Craig who’s Skylab is of a personal/professional interest to me, Dale with the HeadHacking talk, and Fabian’s GSM one. Obviously there are many more, but as I’ve learned over the years – don’t be greedy (especially not at conferences)…
Last but definitely not least, Excaliburcon is going to happen after all! This year the location is going to be just outside of Beijing. We will all miss Wuxi a lot, but I’m really looking forward to checking out more of China. It was a great experience last year and I’m setting up my hopes pretty high for December as the speaker list is getting pretty hot!
The common threat across these three conferences is that unlike the “big ones”, they all allow the attendants a very close interaction with the talks. This really enables more information sharing and knowledge transfer, and I’ve really learned a lot more from smaller conferences such as these than from the big ones that sport a dozen tracks at the same time (think RSA… you are not going there for the content anymore…).
If you happen to be at one of those, feel free to ping me (or even better – buy me a beer 🙂 )!