A former White House security advisor has suggested that you, dear reader, are naive if you think hosting data outside of the US will protect a business from the NSA.
“NSA and any other world-class intelligence agency can hack into databases even if they not in the US,” said former White House security advisor Richard Clarke in a speech at the Cloud Security Alliance summit in San Francisco on Monday. “Non-US companies are using NSA revelations as a marketing tool.”
Clarke was also a member of the intelligence review group set up by President Obama in 2013 to scrutinize Uncle Sam’s spying operations and come up with surveillance techniques that won’t unnerve the entire world. He also served as a special advisor on cyber security for former US president George Bush.
In his speech at the CSA, Clarke claimed that it “makes sense for some governments to wave the bloody flag of the NSA scandal … they want localization so local companies can do better against international companies.”
And indeed, European governments are making moves to keep more data within the EU.
In January, a non-binding draft European Parliament report urged the EU to consider suspending Safe Habor data-sharing agreements with the US, and that the EU should further investigate developing its own pan-European storage cloud.
Following this, German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week backed a number of initiatives to protect German and EU data from American snoops, such as restricting IT suppliers for government contracts, or building more communications infrastructure to keep data transmissions on the Continent.
These moves come amid growing criticism of NSA practices by European governments, and an increasingly unnerved citizenry.
But far from protecting against spying, Clarke indicated that these schemes are more about giving EU companies an edge, than protecting Joe Citizen from surveillance.
“When you think of data localization, don’t buy the argument that is being pushed by privacy considerations – it’s being pushed by the bottom line,” he said. “If you think passing a law making data localization a requirement in the EU or Brazil […] stops the NSA from getting into those databases, think again.”
A shorter summary of Clarke’s speech about the trouble facing firms that compete with US firms and may therefore come into the crosshairs of the NSA is: “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t”.
One way to build trust between nations and let everyone get on with spying in the national interest – broadly, protecting citizens at home and abroad from physical harm – would be for the US to provide better assurances around security, he said.
“The United States government has to get out of the business – if it were ever in the business – has to get out of the business of fucking with encryption standards,” Clarke said. ®