What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos


Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers


Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge


Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more

Did the NSA Deal Fatally Damage the RSA Brand?

December 23, 2013, 10:00 AM

Secrecy is not a poor security practice as much as a compromise of integrity.

EMC’s RSA Security division recently made headlines when its enterprise products were expertly hacked, undermining the security of thousands of organizations globally and embarrassing the industry pioneer. The company, whose illustrious founders – Ron RivestAdi Shamir and Leonard Adleman - are rock stars in the security industry, is now battling an even greater threat to its existence than a contingent of – allegedly Chinese – hackers.

That threat comes from within, but not from insider hacking. It comes from a comedy of errors in which RSA is only one of the actors, albeit one whose trust and influence have been built over a third of a century.

The decision to watch quietly as the NSA corrupted global security standards and subverted the process of getting them accepted through the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). That process tarnished NIST’s reputation as the publisher of rigorous computing standards and undermined the good work of thousands of people. Despite the far reaching implications, NIST recently issued a statement indicating that they will continue to work with the NSA. Did they have a choice? Probably not. Should the NSA stop abusing its authority and damaging the economy? President Obama and his crew definitely think so.

But that ‘guidance’ may be too little, too late for RSA, whose decision to timidly release a recommendation to a limited number of its clients 3 months ago was intended to soften the impending blow to its reputation without saying too much.

Though it was far from precise, that lack of completeness did not result from a failure to explain that the software they had sold to a trusting public was artificially weakened to enable illegal spying. Its failure was in omitting to disclose that RSA Security took money in exchange for its complicity. And silence.

How much? If only they had made a good deal there, someone, somewhere might have been able to build a twisted case for acceptability of the dignity cost. Alas, for a $2 billion global security leader to take only – get this – $10M for its part in conspiring to deceive a global marketplace is indicative of some serious forces at play. And one of them is RSA’s accelerating battle against obsolescence.

As we try to find our footing through this new, post-Snowden world, we’re starting to see things with different eyes and we should expect no shortage of surprises. But aside from the breaches of trust, I for one lament the seismic damage to the institutions that real people have built with real sweat and real passion over the past century.

Security by obscurity doesn’t work, and one key reason is that dignity can be retroactively damaged. Immanuel Kant said it best when famously asserting that everything has either a price or dignity. In choosing to take money for its part in a massive deception, RSA early on gave up the right to chalk its actions up to altruism, national security and the global war on terror.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock


Did the NSA Deal Fatally Da...

Newsletter: Share: