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On 27 October, the US Senate passed a version of the Cybersecurity Information Act (CISA) that allows companies to share any and all information about their user base with the Department of Homeland Security, who could then pass it on to any other agency. This is a free pass that allows our largest gatherers of information on individual citizens to share info with the government, and they will be given broad immunity even if they have violate privacy laws in the process.
We all know the targets of this legislation: Google, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Snapchat and all of the online social networking companies, for these are the companies that know most about the comings and goings, the likes and dislikes, the purchase records, dating habits and political positions of everyone in America, and of most of our American allies.
What does this do for real security, though? Virtually all of our hacks have been performed by overseas agencies that have an axe to grind with America. No important hacks have come from our citizens or our allies.
Let's look at the world facts of the web. China is in an undeclared cyber war with the US. Does anyone believe China uses Google for anything more than disinformation? Of course not. China has one of the most sophisticated search engines and social networking tools of any country on the planet.
The prime search engine in China is Baidu. Not only can it search the surface web, like Google, but it can also search the deep web and even the dark web – something none of our search engines can even approach. Google is a massive step down for China. If Homeland Security is searching for data about our prime international threat by contacting Google, it will receive laughable disinformation and nothing else. China is 1,000 steps ahead of us.
In addition to Baidu, it also has Sogau and Youdao. If you know how to use these properly, you would have an ironclad version of Tor. Both use old US satellites co-opted by the Chinese in order to hide the source of a hack when one occurs.
The Chinese version of Twitter is Sina Weibo – a faster, cleaner, more populated version of our Twitter, which literally puts Twitter to shame. China has two Facebooks: RenRen and Pengyou. RenRen is by far the better, with user facilities that Facebook has never even dreamed of.
QQ is China's answer to instant messaging, and what an answer it is. Exquisitely designed. Meanwhile, Duandian is China's version of Tumblr. They go on and on, but in each case I can assure you no American software is used.
So what will Homeland Security find out about our largest global threat through this new legislation? Absolutely nothing. Because the Chinese are determined that we know absolutely nothing. If Homeland Security goes to China and asks Baidu to turn over records, it will be laughed out of the building.
What about another looming potential enemy: Russia. Do we have an in to it through this legislation? Again, Russia is too smart to use American company facilities to do its searches and social networking. Yandex, an awesome search product that should make Google ashamed, is the Russian national search engine. As an indiction of the trust between the Chinese and Russians, the Chinese have allowed the Russians to use its search engine – Baidu. Food for thought here.
The Russians also have an all-in-one social media system – VK. People seem to love it. My daughter began using it six months ago as a means of hiding her "things" from my prying eyes. It did not work.
Every one of our potential enemies has their own search engine. Korea has NAV. Afghanistan has Collassus. Iran has Yooz. Everybody has something. Except for US citizens and allies of the US virtually all of whom use Google. So this new bill will do nothing to stop international cyberterrorism, which is where our real cyber threat lies. But it will do everything to compromise the privacy of American citizens and our allies. If your are a US ally, then for heaven's sake wake up before it's too late.
Who is John McAfee?
John McAfee is one of the most influential commentators on cybersecurity anywhere in the world. His new venture – Future Tense Central – focuses on security and personal privacy-related products. In September, McAfee announced he will be running for US president in 2016.
McAfee provides regular insight on global hacking scandals and internet surveillance, and has become a hugely controversial figure following his time in Belize, where he claims to have exposed corruption at the highest level before fleeing the country amid accusations of murder (the Belize government is currently not pursuing any accusations against him).
In September, McAfee was nominated for technology and digital commentator of the year at the annual Comment Awards for his work for IBTimes UK. The winners will be announced at a ceremony on 24 November.