Cybersecurity expert and Chief Research Officer for Finnish software company F-Secure Mikko Hyppönen today urged EU countries to steer clear of U.S. software and services in light of the ongoing revelations that the NSA engages in mass surveillance of EU citizens and officials. Speaking at TEDx Brussels on a day when the latest Snowden disclosure revealed that the NSA collected data on 60 million phone calls in yet another European country, Spain, during a recent month, Hyppönen said EU countries should "try to steer away from systems built in the United States"
The big challenge is that "any single company in Europe cannot build replacements" that rival U.S. technology in terms of scope and utility. The solution lies in EU countries banding together to build open source systems "then one country doesn't have to solve the problem by itself," Hyppönen suggested.
Although all countries engage in surveillance, the real problem lies in the concentration of technological dominance in the United States. "How many Swedish decision-makers use U.S.-based services" such as Windows or cloud-based services every day, he asked. Conversely, "how many American leaders use Swedish-based services?"
Even services developed outside the U.S., such as Skype, become subject to insecurity once they're acquired by American firms within the reach of the NSA, he said. "Once again we take something that is secure and make it insecure on purpose."
Even though the NSA only has the legal right to monitor foreigners, "96% of the planet is foreigners. It is wholesale surveillance of all of us," Hyppönen said.
Regarding the apparent discrepancy between leaked NSA slides that indicate U.S. technology companies, such as Microsoft and Google, cooperate with the intelligence agency via backdoors or some other means of secret access and those companies' denials that such cooperation exists, Hyppönen floated an alternative explanation. "One explanation is that these parties or service providers are not cooperating but they've been hacked. In this case they've been hacked by their own government."
Regarding the massive scale of NSA's surveillance activities, Hyppönen compared the new NSA data center under construction in Utah to IKEA stores, saying the new center is five times larger than the largest IKEA store. "How many hard drives could you fit into an IKEA store?" he asked. "They can keep the data for decades."
The two biggest technological revolutions in recent history, the Internet and mobile communications, "turned out to be the most perfect tools for the surveillance state," Hyppönen said. "It turns out George Orwell was an optimist."