What would it mean for your computer to be secure?
Perhaps that you control what happens on your computer and what your computer does. Let's put aside the fact that even the best computer programmers can't always get their computers to do what they want.
You know what I mean, you want your computer to do what you want, not what someone else wants. You want to run the versions of programs that you like and for sure you don't want spyware running on your machine.
Everyone from the big corporations to the government says they want computer security, but do they want what you want?
Photo Credit: Shutterstock
After all, it isn't just governments that spy on people. If you let them, and it is very hard not to let them, the maker of your computer and lots of other people who provide your software will exfiltrate who-knows-what information from your machine.
Will they ask your permission? Maybe. Perhaps you have given it as part of the license agreement but what if I actually have to do something more to let them get at what they want.
I find software constantly asking permission to do things --- like access my key ring or make changes to my disk --- that I don't understand. I usually say no to them but I find no way of asking them what they were thinking or what they wanted to do.
If I don't install the latest updates -- most of which I also don't understand -- it just keeps bothering me until I do. Perhaps I don't want the latest update. Perhaps I liked the appearance of the old one better than the new one. Can I get the old one back? Maybe, but it often takes a lot of work and more skill than I have.
Updates can do just about anything to your computer. They can fix bugs or they can delete features that you liked but someone else didn't. They can install spyware and they can be aimed at everyone's computer or only yours.
It certainly is convenient to have the manufacturer maintain your computer --frankly, I don't currently see a realistic alternative -- but it has a big downside. By keeping for themselves the power to make changes, vendors open themselves and you to two other threats.
[sharequote align="center"]What people, and especially institutions, can do, they come to feel they have the right to do. [/sharequote]
The government can come to them, not you, with a subpoena and tell them to search your machine without telling you. Or, someone from another government or a criminal organization may break into the computer manufacturer and then into the users' computers.
What people, and especially institutions, can do, they come to feel they have the right to do.
It isn't feasible for the police or corporate marketing to come in and rifle through your filing cabinet, at least it wasn't when your filing cabinets were full of paper. Black bag search jobs were expensive and there was no guarantee those baggers wouldn't be caught.
Now that your disk can be searched by installing a piece of malware on your machine --- or as we have learned in the past few weeks, perhaps it is already built in --- many parties will come to see this as something they can do and have a right to do.
If that doesn't worry you, think about a world that is just around the corner, a world in which almost everybody's data are in the cloud, a world in which someone who keeps things on a private disk is suspected for that alone. Will it be like the world in which someone who has too much cash is suspected of being a drug dealer or tax evader and subject to “forfeiture?”
It is hard to see how you can have society without individuals being accountable for their actions. If a court demands that you tell it something and you refuse, it can put you in jail until you talk. But you still have the right to make that choice and some people, particularly reporters, have chosen to go to jail.
The difference between a free society and one that is not is whether you are free to do things the government doesn't like and take the risk of retaliation --- they usually call it prosecution --- or whether the government can just take what it wants without asking.
TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.