DeepSec 2013 Keynote: Geopolitics and the Internet – the Meaning of “Hegemony”

Most of us think of the Internet as a place where the world virtually gathers and communicates without boundaries. It is regarded as a „virtual“ space where the confinement by borders of nation states is blurred by digital connectivity. People from all over the globe communicate with each other and form a truly cosmopolitan community. The trouble in paradise starts when countries switch off access to the Internet or prosecute whistle-blowers. Given the ever present notion of „cyber“ war we need to discuss geopolitics. It seems that the USA heavily dominates the Internet and regards it as its territory. Marcus Ranum will address the idea of hegemony and the USA with regards to the Internet in his keynote for the DeepSec 2013 conference:

So, the topic is “the meaning of hegemony” – what does the US’ dominance in high tech mean for the rest of the world, and how is it (apparently) being exploited? As we’ve seen from the Snowden revelations, the US Government has not hesitated to embed backdoors in commercial products and/or to suborn data at major providers. Presumably these efforts pay off, in allowing the US government unprecedented and unbalanced levels of access to information. What might a response to this look like? It turns out to be a very difficult problem, and perhaps more expensive than just accepting that the US owns the internet, and proceeding on that assumption. We’ve seen that the NSA has been able to compromise security protocols and products largely by “asking nicely” and the big players like Microsoft, AT&T, Google, and RSA appear to have gone along with it. It’s probably safe to assume that all the major products from the US’ market have been backdoored to some degree or another: what would be the alternative response? More of a concern, if another country decided to build the world a Google, why shouldn’t we assume that they backdoored it as well? All it takes is one mole on the inside, and a tremendously expensive effort to build an NSA-free product is wasted. Are there alternatives? Are they all ugly?

This is not to be taken lightly. The future of our digital infrastructure rests on the trust we can put in it. No serious business can thrive on compromised systems taken over by third parties – because customers have to trust the online shops and digital transactions. The NSA scandal has the potential to damage the business of US tech giants, and some companies have already evacuated the US-centric cloud service market for other countries.. The same holds true for private individuals exchanging messages with their friends and loved ones. Trust is essential, and a lot of it has been lost. Come to DeepSec 2013 and find out how geopolitics influences the security of your use of the Internet.

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