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What Are Security Professionals Thinking?

From Monday the 19th to Friday the 23rd of March, our partners at the Security and Defense Agenda (SDA) organized Security Jam 2012. Over the course of these five days, thousands of experts, representatives of national governments and armed forces, international institutions, NGOs, think-tanks, industry, academia and members of the media took part in a massive online brainstorming session focused on finding real solutions to global security issues. The numbers speak for themselves: during the event, there were 17,000 logins from some 3,000 participants and 50 VIPs spanning 115 countries.

The SDA gave its partner institutions the opportunity to submit some short questions that were published as online polls during the event.  Especially considering the high profile of some of the participants, it is interesting to see what security professionals are thinking about some of the most pressing issues on the security agenda. Below we present the results of five of the most interesting polls. » More

Pirating Lessons

A pirate flag

Full speed ahead. Photo: Scott Vandehey/flickr.

Nomen est omen; the pirates have taken Berlin by storm. Although SPD’s Klaus Wowereit was comfortably re-elected as Berlin’s mayor, the strong showing of Germany’s newest addition to a state parliament has taken many by surprise. The pirate party, dedicated to free information and privacy protection, has won 8.9% of the votes. By comparison, the FDP – a junior partner in Angela Merkel’s government – has been completely kicked out.

Though concerned about the results, most established parties shrug the events off as a form of political protest, and describe the party as anything from ‘non-serious’ to ‘meaningless’. Unfortunately, they’re missing what Berlin’s youth has been trying to say.

Freedom of information and privacy issues on the net affect many voters directly. For a long time, Germany’s elite has been ignoring the important role of the internet in many of its citizens’ lives. When they finally touched upon the issue, it made ‘Generation Net’ worry even more. To internet activists, the prospects of telecommunications data retention felt like a 2.0 version of 1984.

Of course some of the party’s demands seem extreme, and their leaders still have to prove that they are committed to playing a constructive role in day-to-day politics. But whatever the future holds: instead of belittling the pirates, the bigger parties had better work out their own positions on a complex issue that concerns far more than 8.9% of the electorate.

The ISN Quiz: Protecting Privacy in a Surveillance Society

We’re focusing on Protecting Privacy in a Surveillance Society in this week’s Special Report. How much do you know?
[QUIZZIN 24]

Putting a Value on Privacy

Photo: Alan Cleaver/flickr


A 19 February article by Newsweek (The Snitch in Your Pocket Law enforcement is tracking Americans’ cell phones in real time—without the benefit of a warrant), attempts to revive the debate about the government’s forays into the realm of “Big Brother” (a cliché no mainstream media outlet can avoid).

The FBI, according to the article, has been seeking “unusually sensitive records: internal data from telecommunications companies” that show “the locations of their customers’ cell phones – sometimes in real time, sometimes after the fact.” This information, according to federal prosecutors, is used to trace the movements of suspected drug traffickers, human smugglers and corrupt officials. The story was revived because a few federal magistrates questioned the legal authority for obtaining this information. The report notes that there are some 277 million cell phone users in the US, and that companies like AT&T, Verizon and Sprint can track their devices in real time. It also quoted ‘experts’ as saying that most people do not realize this.

Lately, according to Newsweek, citing law enforcement officials, court records and telecommunications executives, “the FBI and other law-enforcement outfits have been obtaining more and more records of cell-phone locations – without notifying the targets or getting judicial warrants establishing ‘probable cause.’
» More