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#BSidesSF: Government and FBI Still Do Not Understand Cyber-Space

Government and the FBI has a bunch of “frustrated hall monitors” who still do not understand cybersecurity.

Speaking in the opening keynote at Security B-Sides San Francisco, John Perry Barlow, who wrote the Declaration of Independence of Cyber Space in 1996, and is a founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), said that the FBI using terrorists as a wedge to drive into security of the nation.

He said: “The current flailing of the FBI against Apple is a hallmark of how true it is, and the FBI is trying to get Apple to do something it cannot and the FBI is too stupid to realise it cannot. This is how far we have come since meeting with FBI.”

Barlow cited examples of meetings with the FBI back in 1989 when phone freaking was discovered, “which consisted of early adolescents trying to create the internet by sneaking around phone networks”.

Barlow said he called out the group of “hacker kids” and said if someone took away their modem and replaced it with a skateboard, it wouldn’t matter. “They didn’t like that, and I heard from ten of them in New York City and their voices had not changed, but they were the natives of the future, the pioneers of something and I became the troop leader to the legion of doom,” he said. However Barlow said that despite this funny position, the Secret Service swooped on them.

He said that one called “Acid Phreak” came home and found the FBI had confiscated all his Metallica tapes and anything electronic in his home, and Barlow said an FBI agent wanted to discuss the issue in person, and he spent an hour and a half explaining why it was unlikely to be him who was responsible.

“Cyber-space had been invaded by an initial party of not very bright, extremely well-armed and anti-clued people, and our rights were in danger,” he said. “I also recognised this, and started the EFF, and its objective was to defend the first and fourth amendments, and the first applied to electronically transferred material.

Barlow went on to say that the FBI is not the enemy, but the enemy is their incentives - driven by a populace's irrational fears.  He called on the audience and industry to put our resources where there is a problem, and he said that in government “there is a bunch of frustrated hall monitors and they are fighting for cultural dominance in a world going on since 1966”.

He concluded by saying that a patriot in terms of cyber-space is someone who believes in a vision that everybody everywhere has the right to know, and now it is possible to convey and create a communications network that if you are curious about something, no matter how odd, you can find out everything known by humans on that subject and then you have a global ecosystem of mind that is capable of thinking unbelievable thoughts.

“Your responsibility is to shoot for that kind of outcome even as you try to figure out ways to protect abuse of free speech from dominating conversation.  You define the end and what get through.”

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