Did the NSA Deal Fatally Damage the RSA Brand?
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.
Claudiu Popa is the Chief Executive Officer of Informatica Corporation, an industry leading management consulting firm focused on information asset protection, advisory services and strategic consulting within governance, risk management and compliance (GRC).
Mr. Popa oversees the strategic direction of the company with a focus on executive advisory programs, partnerships, educational programs and media relationships. He is directly involved in the development of systems, methodologies and programs that deliver increasing value and innovation to an exclusive clientele across North America.
Mr. Popa has been described as a champion of causes involving information risk, including breach notification legislation, individual privacy rights and the protection of enterprise information assets.
He is a published author and respected authority within his field, routinely approached by media and notable publications such as the CBC, CityNews, GlobalTV, the Globe and Mail, the Financial Post and numerous technology trade publications.
Mr. Popa routinely works with respected industry bodies to further the security and privacy profession while delivering innovative solutions to an evolving industry. He enjoys contributing to community programs and works actively to support a select group of charitable organizations.
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 Rivest, Adi 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.
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