Edward Snowden talks Russia, ‘spy’ microwaves & web security at tech conference
A day after FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Michael Rogers appeared before the House Select Committee on Intelligence, Snowden discussed the accusations of Russian interference in the US election. While stating the allegations were plausible, Snowden told those gathered at the conference in Hanover that “we haven't seen any real evidence out of the FBI of it.”
Snowden was later asked: “Are you a pawn right now for the Russian president when he talks to President Trump?” The whistleblower stated that he was not a “powerful influential figure” who could change things and was expendable to Russia.
“Russian influence in the election needs to be investigated and if they are found to have been, they need to be held accountable to the law,” Snowden said later. He added that if they were found to be interfering, this was nothing new and that every country’s intelligence agencies interfere in elections.
“Foreign interference is a common thing,” he said. “If elections have been interfered with throughout history why does this one matter?”
Asked what has changed since he last spoke at CeBIT in 2015, Snowden said the latest progress in encryption is driving the “internet predator class” to develop hacking techniques, known as ‘Zero days’. There is no guarantee that these techniques, detailed in the recent WikiLeaks dump, will not end up in the wrong hands.
“Very soon we are about to see a level of proliferation that results in a real crisis,” he said.
Discussing Kellyanne Conway’s recent claims that there are cameras in certain microwaves, he said she may have misunderstood information she was given to arrive at that conclusion. However, given the information revealed by WikiLeaks of spying through Samsung smart TVs, it may not be as ridiculous at it seems.
Asked about allegations he was connected to WikiLeaks, Snowden said “No, this is well established public fact.” He admitted they helped him leave Hong Kong before coming to Moscow in 2013. “I don’t talk to Julian Assange, I don’t talk to WikiLeaks, I have no relationship with them.”
Snowden said WikiLeaks’ recent publications “have been a genuine public service.”
“We need to make the cost of compromising data greater than the value of that data,” Snowden said of storing data on clouds, claiming that more complicated engineering procedures will make it too costly to steal data. Snowden cited the example of how two-step authentication could have prevented the hacking of John Podesta’s emails.
Podesta, who served as campaign manager for Hillary Clinton during her election campaign, had his email compromised by a simple phishing scheme. The emails were leaked to WikiLeaks which published them in the lead up to the 2016 presidential election, revealing a fractured Democratic party.
“I’m not here to fix this,” Snowden said, when asked about his claims that mass surveillance has increased since he leaked NSA documents in 2013. He claimed the technology community will have to move the issue forward, something he said he was not qualified to do.
Asked if he had confidence that Trump’s administration would reform the NSA, Snowden laughed. “Let’s be real. Donald Trump has never represented himself as a friend of civil liberties.”
Asked about the German government’s decision not to invite him to the country to give testimony to members of parliament investigating NSA surveillance in Germany, Snowden said they may be “simply moving on, to avoid the topic, because sometimes the truth is uncomfortable."
Looking back his life so far, Snowden said: “I’m proud of the choices I made,” insisting he would deal with the consequences of the choice he made as they happen, claiming “belief is not enough” and that he takes pride in acting on his beliefs. Asked if he wanted to go back to the US Snowden said “Of course, it’s my home.”
“I lost a lot,” Snowden said when asked about previous comments that he “burnt his life to the ground,” saying the statement had hope, as it allowed new growth in his life, which he described as “profoundly empowering.”
Snowden complemented Oliver Stone’s recent film of which he is the subject, saying it was an “amazing accomplishment” to explain a complicated issue to a broad audience.