It has been interesting to watch the commentary flying around the interwebs about the CIA Wikileaks leak. It has sparked many conversations around our office, and frankly we’re more surprised that so many people apparently had not considered that the government would be developing these kinds of defenses.
On one hand, the American people depend on our military forces (including the intelligence community and their specialists) to protect us from conventional threats as well as emerging threats. This is not unlike security professionals in the commercial industry — protecting employees from security attacks of both generic and hyper-specific types.
However, we don’t think it is unfair for our security professionals in our organizations to have software and technology advantages over the attackers to better defend us… why is this such a surprise for our government? They need to have unique, specialized software and technology to protect our citizens from cyber warfare threats. Our tax dollars fund the intelligence community’s efforts to develop better, more sophisticated technology than attackers have to best protect our interests. Sometimes, the human element means these things can be misappropriated — but that doesn’t make their existence wrong.
On the other hand, we have to ask ourselves how we differentiate enemy combatants from innocent citizens when this technology is used. The concept of privacy and the sanctity of one’s home is no longer what it was 10, 20, or 30 years ago. If the intelligence community is truly using these asset to protect citizens, we need to make sure they can properly safeguard the usage of such software under the guidance of our governing policies and documents in this country.
I have no doubts the leaked data is real, and likely only a fraction of what assets the governments of the world have. The CIA is one of many agencies in the world, across world governments, that have this kind of technology. The need for cyber advantages is real, and every country on the planet is investing in this kind of stockpiling. This may be the trove that was leaked recently, but many others have been purposefully or maliciously leaked in smaller portions over the past decade. Anticipating anything less than their existence, use, and availability makes us naive as a population of this technology-forward planet.