Cybercrime: Obama at Daggers with Silicon Valley

Sony, Target, Home Depot … the list of companies that have suffered major cyberattacks is getting longer by the day. Recently, the insurance company Anthem had names, social security numbers and a stream of other information about 80 million of its clients stolen. Barack Obama has been tackling this scourge, which has reached unprecedented levels since he came to power. The American president will attend a meeting on cybercrime in Silicon Valley this Friday, in which around a thousand people will take part. On the agenda of these talks are the increasingly sophisticated attacks targeting the United States and collaboration with the sector giants. In parallel, on Friday Barack Obama will also sign a decree encouraging the companies to share information more. Its ultimate aim is building a platform where they all report risks of attack.

But Silicon Valley won’t be easy to convince. Since Edward Snowden’s revelations on the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance methods, relations between Washington and the Palo Alto companies have become more strained. Reconciliation will be the real issue of this Friday’s meeting.

A Silent War

In order to counter the NSA, which had bugged Cisco equipment and was intercepting Internet traffic — and as a result the correspondence of millions of people — Amazon, Google, Yahoo and other Silicon Valley giants have reinforced the encryption of their mail boxes and all of their communication tools. Some, like the Amazon Web Services cloud service, do not even know the encryption keys of their customers, thus rendering themselves unable to respond to a legal injunction. These initiatives have exasperated the FBI, the intelligence agencies and also David Cameron, the British prime minister, who has gone as far as publicly demanding a ban on encryption.

A silent war has been waged ever since between the Valley giants and the counter-intelligence services, who buy “zero day” bugs on the grey market — bugs that have not yet been discovered by the equipment’s publishers or manufacturers, and which they rely on to break into the systems of the technological giants. On the other side Google, Facebook and Microsoft pay bug-hunters to detect those they may have missed. For the Silicon Valley giants, there is no way they will compromise their users’ trust, otherwise they risk losing all of their business.

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