How Does Tech Survive? aka: How to Implement 1984.

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Crossposted at FireDogLake.

As we now know, the NSA and its minions have penetrated CPU BIOS, Disk firmware, Operating systems, web sites, hacked the net, spoofed TCO responses and generally acted as the biggest bad-ass hackers on the planet. Their goal was universal spying and data acquisition, regardless of whether or not you were innocent. They wanted it ALL!

But to get it, the NSA enlisted the aid of some of the major American tech vendors! The CLAIM was that they were doing this to protect Americans from “terror.” It now seems that the claim was just another lie; they wanted information on everyone, Americans and non-Americans alike. History has shown that when the State wants to accumulate information on all its citizens, the reason is CONTROL, not protection. Every time a nation gathers information, sooner or later it becomes blackmail material; former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover was known to have files on all sorts of people: politicians, actors, activists, negro leaders. SOME of those files may have enabled him to keep his job through several US Presidencies. State abuse of personal information is the reason why Privacy became an item worth enshrining in the Constitution of the United States of America. 

Now, consider all the lies that the government told, in order to create their huge databases. By both lying and hiding what they were doing, they have destroyed trust, not merely in government, but also in US technical companies, because some of those companies assisted the government in spying on US citizens and the rest of the world. The government’s decision to involve US tech companies has some interesting unintended consequences:

1. NO government or non-US company can trust equipment from US providers to be backdoor-free. General Dynamics, Cisco and IBM have already discovered the way a bad reputation can affect its bottom line; General Dynamics lost to SAAB in Brazil, and IBM’s and Cisco’s sales in China dropped sharply in the last quarter. But it’s even worse than that. The NSA and the US tech giants who helped them have shown other hackers worldwide how to do what they did. US governmental bad behavior has increased the danger to any business or government that might choose to use US-based technology. The USG simply did not think through the repercussions that their bad behavior would bring. It is now almost impossible for a Non-US company or government to make a decision to buy US technical equipment, because it can’t be trusted. And when the manufacturers say, “We made a big mistake! We’ll fix it! Trust us!” the obvious response is, “How? You were willing to deceive me before. How do I know that you won’t do it again?” Trust, once broken, is broken. You can’t put a bandaid on it.

2. US companies have the same problem. The folks cannot ask their vendors for help, because the vendors helped the government develop the vulnerabilities/back doors, and if corporate IT personnel were to rely on the now proven-untrustworthy promises of those same vendors, how could they tell their management their systems are secure? How could their management certify in the annual reports (Sarbanes-Oxley rears its ugly head) that they have been diligent in protecting their IT systems? Oops!
To sum up: The Government has developed working hacks into every part of the IT systems currently in use, aided and abetted by IT vendors.

What’s a customer to do? What’s a government (non US) to do?

The spooks who created the hack are unlikely to remain 100% honest, and with the R&D complete, some will turn to fast money, and even crime. Criminals will be thinking “How do we benefit from this great piece of US Government funded R&D, and who should we hire?” Suppose that some of those spooks change their employment: how could they use their skills to support themselves and their families? We believe that instead of reducing peril to Americans, the US government has actually increased it, for both Americans and non-Americans alike.

If I were running a bank or credit card service, these hacks would make me very nervous. I’d be very afraid of a potential huge hack of my customers’ data – oh wait, there was one – the target of the hack was Target! Were the malefactors thieves, or was it Target’s competition? Who does Target turn to for help? Who can be trusted? What a problem!

Going back to the damage done to foreign governments and infrastructure, you might ask: “What does a sovereign government do to protect itself and its own institutions from war, and from both government and corporate espionage?

Answer: Do it yourself. Build up your own vendors, to replace the discredited vendors who colluded with spies. Use Open Source Software and Open Source Hardware, so that it can be widely inspected by knowledgeable people. Verify it at every stage of creation, and ship them securely so that they cannot be altered after packaging and before delivery to their destinations. You have to assume that if it has not been verified at every stage from design through use that it cannot be trusted, and must not be used! This is the legacy bequeathed to the world by a US government that once again, failed to consider the downside consequences of its actions.

BUT, we are not finished with the repercussions. Let’s think about this just a little bit further. We have shown that US tech is losing trust, and will continue to lose it; we have also made clear that the NSA’s overreaching desire to spy on the whole planet has the consequence that foreign governments and their allies will start to build their own technical capabilities, and replace US technology with their own.


Globalization for the “Global Tech” industry is OVER, because as national governments and their allies decide to use their own technology, there will arise geographic areas of “verified tech” which is said to be safe to use, with the secure knowledge that the local Government which “verified” the tech is the only entity using the tech’s backdoors for surveillance. The other trading blocs will be unable to ship their technology to other companies and governments outside their trading group, because it will be considered untrustworthy.

Luckily this will end the Globalization Trade for any device which contains “high tech” which is nearly everything, and thus will result in globalization only of commodities, coal, oil, iron ore, etc, because it is difficult to conceive how to put a backdoor in a lump of coal, which is destined to be burned. A side effect of the end of technical globalization will be increased employment, as local companies hire people to design, build, and ship their products within their local trade group.

The “verified tech” will exist in “islands,” or, geographic trade groups. A US Island (and probably an anglophile island), a European Island, a Russian island, Chinese and probably Japanese and Indian islands. The UK will be split between the US island and European and trusted by neither.

Now, look at what happens to countries with are “in the sphere of influence” of an Island? They use the same technologies as the other countries in that sphere of influence; really, there’s one major country and some dependent countries. In earlier days, those dependent regions might have been called colonies. Today, the relationship isn’t quite that simple, but there IS one interesting similarity between the dependencies in the “islands,” and colonies: the colonies use the technology established by the leading country. As a result, IF A DEPENDENCY wants to change its allegiances, and join another group, it requires changing ALL their technology to equipment which is “certified” by the new group. Changing their entire tech base may be very difficult, but it’s not impossible. It’s not an overnight job, though!

An Island and its dependencies is called an Empire; conquest is the simple step of replacing any dependency’s tech. Does anyone remember the three international “blocks” in the book, “1984?” George, your timing was a bit off, but it looks like you were right.

Who would have though 1984 was an instruction manual, not an allegory?

This all might be moot. The Empires have to survive climate change.

2 Replies to “How Does Tech Survive? aka: How to Implement 1984.”

  1. Well said. Another leak may describe how the tech companies used the material gathered for competitive advantage (as happened, according to the German press, wiht similar pre 2000 surveillance).

    Before we had this program, there was INSLAW and the PROMIS software. DOJ bought it, put the software company out of business, and distributed it to justice and police in other countries:

    “The Hamiltons [owners of INSLAW] claim the modification of Enhanced PROMIS was an essential element of
    the enterprise, because the software was subsequently distributed by Dr. Brian to intelligence agencies internationally with a “back door” software routine, so that U.S. intelligence agencies could covertly break into the system when needed. The Hamiltons also presented information indicating that PROMIS had been distributed to several Federal agencies, including the FBI, CIA, and DEA.” House Judiciary Committee Report, Sep 1992

    We had a chance to stop this in 1992 with a great reporter on the case, Danny Casolaro. He was reported to have suicided after telling friends that he feared for his life. Former Attorney General Elliot Richardson called it “murder.” Serious business then, as it is now.

    And yes, there’s no IT solution for climate change.

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