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Monday, March 8, 2010

The White House’s new cyber-security chief, Howard Schmidt, recently declassified the highly-secretive policies behind the much rumored NSA-backed Homeland Security cyber attack defense program known as Einstein.

Mr. Schmidt deserves credit for taking the steps to declassify this important information, regardless of his motives. However, this should not make us feel any more at ease about this program. According to the Wall Street Journal:

The program is designed to look for indicators of cyber attacks by digging into all Internet communications, including the contents of emails, according to the declassified summary.

Homeland Security will then strip out identifying information and pass along data on new threats to NSA. It will also use threat information from NSA to better identify emerging cyber attacks.

As Homeland Security increases the size of the haystack from which they are trying to find the needles, they will increase continue to increase the number of false positives, treating innocent law-abiding strands of hay as if they were treasonous needles. Yes, in this analogy, hay is the U.S. population and needles are terrorists.

In a previous post on privacy, I stated:
Advocates of security over privacy will often justify their position on data mining by touting the technology as the solution to finding a needle in a haystack. However, the combination of surveillance and processing created the haystack in the first place. These techniques also create a problem known as the false positive paradox.

Let's assume that a terrorist test is 80 percent accurate. In New York City, the test would indicate false positives for over 4 million citizens. Instead of finding 10 terrorists, the test would label millions of citizens, who likely love their country, as enemies of the state.
Even if you do not plan on ever committing any serious crimes, the odds of you being falsely accused will continue to increase with the expansion of programs like Einstein.

Posted by Eleutherian

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