Speakers boycotting security conference to protest collaboration with NSA

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13 speakers are boycotting RSA to protest its cooperation with the NSA, and activists are urging Colbert to do the same.

On Feb. 24, the world’s largest computer security conference, RSA, will commence at San Francisco’s Moscone Center. It’s a huge deal: Speakers will include Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and closing remarks will be given by comedian Stephen Colbert.

Started in 1991, the RSA Conference has grown exponentially. But this year, 13 digital security experts have canceled their scheduled talks in protest of recent revelations that RSA cooperated with the National Security Agency to use a flawed tool for safeguarding sensitive information.

Speakers who are boycotting include technology experts from Google and various security firms. They’re concerned about allegations that RSA, a pioneer in the security software industry, agreed to incorporate a flawed encryption formula into a widely used security product in accordance with a secret $10 million NSA contract. 

“In my opinion, RSA has a serious trust issue,” said Jeffrey Carr, CEO of a security firm called Taia Global Inc. and one of the speakers who has decided to cancel his talk and boycott the conference. “I think they’ll just let it die down. There’s been little uproar, even among the security people,” he added.

Carr authored a blog post explaining his decision. He also organized a “town hall” debate, part of an event series called Suits and Spooks, to be held at the Ritz Carlton in San Francisco on Feb. 27 featuring commentary from security industry representatives as well as insiders from the national intelligence community.

RSA used the encryption algorithm as a default for its security products, meaning users would have had to actively switch to a different formula to avoid exposure to the security threat.

According to a Reuters article published in December, the NSA arranged the contract as part of a campaign to embed breakable encryption software into security products that are widely used to safeguard personal devices.

Previous reporting by the New York Times, based on documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, showed that the NSA had generated the weak encryption formula to create a “backdoor.”

EMC, the parent company that owns RSA, issued a response in December that didn’t specifically address the allegations. The company stated that in 2004, when it agreed to use the algorithm, “the NSA had a trusted role in the community-wide effort to strengthen, not weaken, encryption.”

But Carr said researchers within the security industry had suggested the algorithm might be flawed as early as 2006, and RSA did not abandon its use until after the Snowden leaks were publicized. 

Other speakers who are boycotting have issued statements publicly condemning RSA.

“Your company has issued a statement on the topic, but you have not denied this particular claim. Eventually, NSA's random number generator was found to be flawed on purpose, in effect creating a back door. You had kept on using the generator for years despite widespread speculation that NSA had backdoored it,” wrote chief researcher Mikko Hypponen of the Finnish company F-Secure.

“As my reaction to this, I'm cancelling my talk at the RSA Conference USA 2014 in San Francisco in February 2014," Hypponen went on. "Aptly enough, the talk I won't be delivering at RSA 2014 was titled 'Governments as Malware Authors.'"

Meanwhile, Colbert is also taking some heat for agreeing to speak at the RSA conference.

“We know you, Stephen, and we know you love a good ‘backdoor’ joke as much as we do—but this kind of backdoor is no laughing matter,” activists from Fight for the Future wrote in a petition urging him to join the other speakers who are boycotting the RSA conference. “Companies need to know that they can't betray our trust without repercussions. We want to hear your speech, but give it somewhere else!”

Comments

Those of us with nothing to hide, have nothing to fear.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 1:48 pm

Your constant refrain would have made a good mantra for the Stasi.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 21, 2014 @ 10:44 pm
Posted by Guest on Feb. 23, 2014 @ 9:05 am

who supports a total surveillance state. The particular color of the ideology behind the surveillance state doesn't matter that much. If you lived under communism you'd be saying the same things in defense of the communist state. You support power and authority and hate anyone who challenges it. I've lived in enough places to see that authoritarians everyone have much in common. You have more in common with the East German authoritarians than you think.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 23, 2014 @ 10:08 am

against the nation are more likely to be caught.

I have nothing to hide. Spy on me all you like. I welcome it.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 23, 2014 @ 10:27 am

I rest my case.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 23, 2014 @ 10:39 am

refutation. It just says that Greg believes whatever he wants regardless of the facts.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 23, 2014 @ 11:08 am

If your ideas are so popular then get the Fourth Amendment appealed.

Most Patriotic Americans hate your kind.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Feb. 23, 2014 @ 10:26 pm
Posted by Guest on Feb. 24, 2014 @ 8:37 am

"It makes me feel safer..."

Not that you are any safer. It's an illusion in your head. It's best to be based in reality. You've allowed yourself to be made afraid of your own shadow.

Do you have blinds, shades, curtains or drapes at your windows? If so, why? If you have nothing to hide and don't value privacy, and welcome being spied on, take them down now. Otherwise you're a damned hypocrite.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 24, 2014 @ 6:16 pm

any reasonable person takes e.g. drawing the drapes at night.

My life is an open book. Why isn't yours?

Posted by Lillipublicans on Feb. 24, 2014 @ 7:07 pm

I love the "any reasonable person" Orwellian newspeak. That's so cute.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 24, 2014 @ 10:46 pm

signed,
Anonymous Troll Hiding Behind A Fake Name

Posted by Guest on Feb. 25, 2014 @ 11:39 pm

If you try hard enough to show your loyalty through utter self abnegation, you'll finally convince your father to love you.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 26, 2014 @ 6:51 am

I saw Pete Seeger only once. Our community center, the Delano Filipino Hall, was where everyone from all over was coming, including Robert Kennedy. For it was here that Filipinos, organized as the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC, AFL-CIO) under the leadership of Larry Itliong, launched the historic 1965 Delano Grape Strike. The Mexican workers would later join our picket lines and together we would merge to form the United Farmworkers, AFL-CIO.

It’s been so long ago now that I don’t remember the date or even the event, but how I clearly remember the moment. Barely out of my teens, I wanted to see and hear everything so I planted myself next to the stairs leading up to the small stage. It had been a program of political speeches and the singing of Mexican corridos when I saw a tall, white man with a guitar walking towards the stage. Now what could that white man sing about that poor, agricultural workers in this dusty, hot town in the California Central Valley relate to, I thought. Suddenly, the woman next to me leaned over and whispered, “He’s a communist, I can show you.” I whirled around to demand to know just how you could know someone’s politics by just looking at them when she pointed to the passing man’s feet. That’s when I caught sight of Pete Seeger’s red socks – red socks that would be keep me transfixed during his entire performance. I watched those red socks bounce and bob to the tune of his guitar & songs. Singing in his gringo Spanish, I heard for the first time many of working class songs that Pete Seeger kept alive. It was as I listened to him sing The Deportees that I knew Pete Seeger's heart was full of goodness and human compassion. He had traveled alone all the way from his home in New York to reach out to us here in Delano without being paid a penny for in those days the union could barely afford to pay even its own staff. And yet, Pete Seeger came and sang for us all.

Years later, I would read how viciously Pete Seeger had been tormented and harassed for his political convictions, even by the likes of Robert Kennedy. And I grew to admire him even more, for despite those long years of political persecution, his red socks would always proclaim that he remained true to his working class politics.

Posted by Mary Jane Galviso on Feb. 22, 2014 @ 8:54 am

Is what Mary Jane was really after.

Posted by Chromefields on Feb. 25, 2014 @ 8:07 am

Thank you for complying.

Posted by ThePowerElite.com on Feb. 25, 2014 @ 11:21 pm

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