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Day 7: The Cloak of Honesty and the Helm of Accountability for Big Internet
Oh, the challenges of being a Big Internet company. If you consume more electric power than Peoria, if you look at a river and don't think "pretty" but think about how many generators you can use with it, you know you're one of those Big Internet players. You're Facebook and Google and Microsoft and Apple and quite a few others, the companies we've long trusted with all our information, our schedules, our social graphs, and our kitten and baby pictures, not to mention the occasional presidential selfie.
Now, after all the years of building up an almost blind level of trust in your users (who act more like fans and acolytes than mere customers), the news media has seen fit to publish the Snowden documents showing that you're supposedly in cahoots with governments all over the world.
Now, we all know that if any of the Big Internets are cooperating with governments, it's either because they're running government services on their clouds (oh, if only Healthcare.gov had gone that route), or because the law requires them to turn over bits and bytes to Big Brother.
For months now, the Big Internet firms have been fighting to be allowed to disclose just what it is they're being forced to turn in to the government. To these companies, we offer the gift of transparency. As we reach deep into our bag of gifts, we shall provide to you the finest of all cloaks, the Cloak of Honesty and -- for those truly fit to serve -- the Helm of Accountability.
We recommend you put on these wonderful garments and even, perhaps, parade around the streets of Mountain View, Cupertino, and Redmond. Just stay away from people who might confuse transparency with, you know, no clothes.
Day 8: A silver platter for Snowden investigators
Poor Julian Assange. Rumor has it that he helped Edward Snowden become the household name he has become over these last months. And while Snowden parties it up in Putin's Russia, Assange is still trapped in the Ecuadorian embassy somewhere in London.
And then there's poor, confused, guilty Bradley Manning, who is living out his days in the jail cell he created for himself when he, too, stole documents from the United States government.
Manning is in jail, and Assange pretty much is, in his own way. And yet Snowden has a new job, has probably had his fill of okroshka, coulibiac, caviar, and, of course, some blini. He may yearn for a good pizza, but even so, he's in a far better place than Assange or Manning.
But we don't get gifts for criminals. We get gifts for those who are hunting down the criminals. And to those investigators, diplomats, and, yes, spies, we offer a simple thing. Simply a platter. A nice, pretty, silver platter.
We can't offer you Snowden's or Assange's head on a platter, since there are a whole host of diplomatic and political issues. But when you overcome those issues, now you've got the platter.
DEF CON won
For years, the annual DEF CON shindig in Las Vegas hosted two very similar, yet very different types of people: spies and geeks. The idea of DEF CON is to show the latest hacks, cracks, and methods of overcoming and defeating security of all kinds, and then discuss how to better protect us all from those hacks.
And, for years, the suits from the various federal agencies concerned with information security partied quite well with the geeks from the various Internet companies, universities, and parents' basements all over America.
But not this year. This year, the geeks put their feet down and banned the feds. There were to be no spies, no suits, no shadowy government types at this years DEF CON. After all, with all the noise about the NSA spying, and all the one-upsmanship spying that goes on at DEF CON just for fun, the Snowden revelations clearly put the government spies on one side of the game and the geeks on the other.
They could not be seen together anymore.
While this was disappointing for the geeks who wanted government money or government jobs, it was devastating to the suits who looked forward to DEF CON for the opportunity to let down their hair, take off their ties, and hack like it's 1999.
As former and occasional suits ourselves, we feel bad for the ban. So, as our gift to you, we give you permission to listen in to the planning conferences for next year's DEF CON, and our recommendation that you swipe the plans for the identification cards that will let you into the event. After all, if you can hack the event, you deserve to get in, don't you think?