In the final part of our interview Robert Steele comments on today’s security industry, identity theft, and highlights his view of the future without secrecy.
– How would you characterize the present-day security software? How will it develop in future?
– Not a good question for me other than to say I consider Norton and McCafee to be burdensome crap. ESET keeps me very happy. I consider Microsoft totally compromised, along with all the telecommunications companies. The loss of integrity across society is for me the cancer that may prove fatal to the dream what was America.
– In your opinion, what are the ways of implementing collective intelligence in the antivirus industry?
– Open Source Everything (OSE), end all back-door security compromises with all governments, publicize every known virus and its source, and create a new global sport – open season on spammers and virus authors. Viruses are a classic case where top-down micro-management cannot possibly do well – we have to put the agility and the intelligence and the integrity at the edges of the network. I would also reiterate that nothing the government is doing now is effective in this arena, I really liked Mark Bowden’s book WORM as a concrete illumination of who is actually relevant in this arena.
– Are you personally worried about identity theft? What are you doing to prevent it?
– Being unemployed has its advantages. My family has been shredding all documents for over a decade, and I certainly recommend blocking all credit inquiries. I do feel that if Social Security Numbers (SSN) are going to be the common denominator, that we have a right to be informed of EVERY transaction that contains our SSN. That requires a government with integrity, so I am not holding my breath.
We are about to go into a further collapse in the USA, if my wife were not employed by the government I would be selling everything, buying a boat, and preparing to cast off and be mobile afloat. There is a great deal to be said about John Robb and his many ideas on resilience including community self-financing of social power and Internet micro-grids, getting off the grid. The US electrincal grid is a hair away from national collapse and sustained outages. We have much bigger problems than identity theft.
– When commenting on hacktivists’ campaigns, you stated once that anything that is preventing censorship is good. This is a serious ethical issue – is it really a good thing to fight for freedom using bad methods? To what extent can BAD be justified – as we have millions in financial losses and tons of personal info revealed?
– Well, let’s start with the fact that Goldman Sachs, AIG, Morgan, Citi-Bank, Bank of America, and Countrywide Mortgage have done vastly more damage to the world, not just the USA, I would say that any damages from hactivists pale in comparison. I would also observe that if the government were to live up to its obligations to the public interest, I would not support hacktivists doing any damage at all, but as long as the government remains unwilling to maintain the rule of law including good corporate citizenship, one has to sympathize with anyone that is avowedly working in the public interest.
The truth at any cost lowers all other costs. Until we have a government that embodies intelligence with integrity, I salute all citizen hacktivists, with the observation that I encourage them to expose – share information – rather than harm or destroy. The more we educate our public, the less financial waste and unwarranted violence we should suffer.
– There are strong concerns over privacy and security when information is shared indiscriminately – how do you plan to address this?
– I don’t address this. Every individual should be able to address this themselves. The critical point that Robert Garigue makes is that trust has to be on the edges of the network, it is not something that can be imposed or defined from a central or higher authority. What is really happening is that just as the Industrial Era commoditized human beings, now human information is being commoditized. The government has shown little regard for human rights to their own information.
– You suggest that we decide for ourselves what to share, but if we share only part of what we have – it will not really be “Open Everything”? Do you think people will share 50%? How much is enough?
– Open Everything is a platform within which anyone should have the right to choose between sharing and not sharing. Open Source includes Open Security, and assures privacy and compartmented living to the fullest extent desired by each individual.
– More sharing pushes less privacy; how to solve ethical problems of being open to the whole world? How do we adopt this concept in our minds? Currently all privacy reducing initiatives, e.g. Instagram’s recent Terms of Service, are being strongly confronted by the public.
– I strongly support multiple trusted identities that cannot be connected. Sharing must be an option that comes with protection. One size does not fit all.
– What do you think of the suggested idea of introducing Internet passports? And overall, how do you see the future of IDs/passports – will we need them?
– I like the idea but its implementation should be decentralized – no central authority is immune from corruption.
– Is it the only way for us – to live in a world that never forgets? Do you personally want to live in such a world?
– David Brin and Bruce Sterling would say asked and answered. I have no problem with a world that never forgets, I have a problem with a world that does not learn. I had the future of intelligence well defined in 1988-1994, and only now, 20 years later, are people beginning to get a glimmer, and only because we are in a financial crisis and their questionable practices are coming under greater scrutiny. Right now we are in Groundhog Day – everyone is reliving the same day over and over, but unlike Groundhog Day, the organizations are not learning, they are treading water and refusing to learn.
– You have done 1880 book reviews on Amazon. You said you joined Amazon in 2000, it means one review every 2-3 days! How do you find the time to read and review all of them? Do you read them to the end, have you re-read any books? Any time management or reading advice?
– First off, the numbers are skewed by the fact that my first 300 reviews came from the annotated bibliographies of my first two books, meaning that I had read them in years prior. I loaded all of those around 4 April 2000 and was instantly in the top 1,500 reviewers. I actually read at least one book a week, often two books a week, and when I fly over the Atlantic or Pacific, as many as ten books in a week.
Secondly, if I review a book at all, I found something worthwhile, but in a handful of cases, will take the trouble to slam a book I find especially noxious.I never re-read books, but when I still had my library of 3,000 volumes, I would often pull down books to refresh my memory or pull a quote for a new article or chapter. When I served the UN briefly in 2010 I gave my entire library to George Mason University (GMU), and was quite pleased to see that it took three specialist librarians to evaluate it. Now I donate all books to the Oakton Public Library after I read them, which makes my summary reviews more important as my storage device.
– Final thoughts?
– 2012 is the beginning of Epoch B – the end of top-down hierarchical central control and rule by secrecy. Every crime against humanity that I can think of has stemmed from corruption and closed systems combined with an apathetic and ignorant public. I believe that we cannot create a prosperous world at peace without first scaling free cell phones and free Internet access and free education to the five billion poor. As best I can tell, Open Source Everything (OSE) is the only affordable scalable solution – and that includes all the open source code for privacy that anyone might wish to enjoy. St.