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Researcher argues for open hardware to defend against NSA spying

Antone Gonsalves | Oct. 11, 2013
Expert claims open source hardware enables better detection of backdoors or vulnerabilities.

"In principle a good idea, but in practice not so much," he said.

"Auditing code is always difficult, this will be low-level code that is difficult to follow. I think it will create an illusion of openness that will still be relatively easy to conceal backdoors and such in."

Dourado has his supporters. James W. Gabberty, a professor of information systems at Pace University, said "no other information security control trumps the importance of regular and comprehensive auditing."

"Moving towards an Internet infrastructure that is 100% auditable by both governments and companies alike makes the most sense since, after all, we live in an era of increasing paranoia exacerbated by highly publicized regular hacking incidents of our most important societal systems," he said.

Trust of U.S. technology in light of the NSA revelations has become a concern for vendors selling overseas. Malcolm Harkins, vice president and chief information security and privacy officer for Intel, recently told Network World that customers have expressed a lack of confidence in U.S.-based tech vendors.

Brazil's president, Dilma Roussef, was so angered after learning that she, the state-owned oil company and citizens were spied on by the NSA that she postponed attending a state dinner in her honor in Washington, D.C. Brazil is considering laying fiber optic cable to avoid having its Internet traffic run through the U.S.

Even if governments, universities and private organizations switched to hardware and software that was "100 percent open and auditable," they wouldnt be completely safe from spying, Dourado conceded. However, they would make surveillance efforts more difficult and less effective.

"A 100 percent open-infrastructure Internet — a trustworthy Internet — would be an important step in the empowerment of individuals against their governments the world over," he concluded.

 

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