A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange before a glitch this afternoon.

Credit: Seth Wenig/AP via NPR

Security Glitches At NYSE And United Airlines Raise Question: Who Should Have Access To Our Data?

July 8, 2015

This morning, flights from United Airlines were grounded due to a router problem. Then, the New York Stock Exchange mysteriously shut down. While the Department of Homeland Security maintains that no evidence of malicious intent has been found, it raises the question: how safe are our online systems, really? Should we be worried about our information online staying private?

That's a question that's especially relevant this week, a day after a group of international security technologists called for the American and British governments to call off their quest for access to encrypted data.

In the effort to protect consumers, companies like Google are seeking to encrypt personal data so it cannot be cyberattacked. "Encryption is like putting up a series of shields to protect data," explained Juliette Kayyem, homeland security expert and host of the "Security Mom" podcast. 

But countries like the U.S. and the U.K. have requested 'keys' to encrypted data so it can be accessed by law enforcement officials on the trail of suspected criminals or even terrorists. Security experts argue, however, that giving up those keys basically negates the process—that once that key is handed over to the government, the information can no longer be encrypted. 

Kayyem says there's no reason governments should have unrestricted access to private data. "I think the companies are right, absent judicial assessment," she said.

"There are benefits to having the government have to go through hoops," she continued. "Part of that is it creates important bureaucratic checks on agencies that can get out of hand."

If law enforcement has reason to suspect nefarious activity, a search warrant can always be requested. But otherwise, it's better to have tighter restrictions on data access.

"You want the baseline to be 'no, but' rather than 'yes, unless,'" Kayyem said.

To hear more from Juliette Kayyem, tune in to Boston Public Radio above.


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