I promised myself that politics would not play a significant role on this blog. Presidential race discussion, at least, is more than plentiful elsewhere and is off-topic for this site. I decided it is time to buckle down and do a bit of final research before the primaries. As a technologist, one of the things that I have come away with after watching many of the debates and doing some general research on the candidates is disappointment with their stance and understanding of digital security.
I have heard many of the candidates of both parties talking about implementing encryption backdoors in consumer communication channels to intercept terrorist communication. The simple fact is that security is hard. Security is very hard. Even though it is technically possible to build in a backdoor, securing that door would be impossible. The government cannot even protect the sensitive information of its employees (I am looking at you, OPM, a hack of which I am now a victim), so how do they propose they could safeguard this backdoor? The math for encryption is public, so if the U.S. government were given easy access, more and more independent solutions would be developed to circumvent this invasion of privacy. Law-abiding citizens would be spied on while potential criminals use alternative encrypted services to communicate. National security is important, but haphazardly breaking encryption algorithms to spy on everyone is not the way to achieve it.
I know that many are tired of hearing about it; but, she is a front-runner, and this incident is not minor. Even if I perfectly aligned with her on all of the major issues, I could still not get myself to vote for her because of this act. I held a secret security clearance for five years and was privy to some classified information. For me to access the classified information, I had to work in a particular government-owned room with no network connectivity to the public Internet behind layers of authentication, both physical and digital. I guarantee that the information I had access to, mostly technical details about aircraft, does not compare to the information to which Secretary Clinton had access. The fact that some highly-sensitive national secrets were emailed (problem 1) to/from a server hosted privately in her home (problem 2) seemingly without the knowledge of any of her colleagues or superiors should immediately disqualify her from the highest public office.
If the best of the best are after your information, you need the best of your best protecting it. And there is simply no way that a “homebrew” server is EVER going to have the security and resources appropriate to defend it adequately.
— Christopher Budd
Email is inherently insecure and requires an immense amount of security expertise to maintain a semblance of privacy. Even after the two months of no encryption at all, there is no way that her IT squad could have provided the same level of security as the Federal Government. Since she held such a high public office, storing and transmitting public secrets through a private server should be severely frowned upon. I do not expect our president to be a technology expert, but he or she does need to have a decent understanding and accountability in their use of digital tools to instill trust in the constituents of the most technologically advanced nation.
My Survey Results
That is it; I decline to discuss any other presidential race issues for now. I did want to use a digital tool to get a decent objective choice on my ideal candidate. Online surveys, in general, do not provide a complete picture of the best candidate for any given voter. There is far more to making a good president than the stance that he or she takes on the main issues. I was fairly impressed with the depth, options, and seemingly unbiased nature of ISideWith’s survey. I was frustrated that ISideWith attempted to violate my privacy by logging my location without my permission, but my VPN successfully fooled it (#NotInNewJersey). My top result was no surprise.