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Google Hacked by the Chinese ... with Help from US Government

Oh, this is one of those stories that makes your head spin. CNN has an opinion piece by security expert Bruce Schneier who says that the U.S. government inadvertently aided the Chinese hackers who broke into Google's (GOOG) systems.

It all comes down to national legislation that forces companies like Google to leave back doors open so that government investigators can execute court-issued warrants and gain access to email and other information owned by targets of an investigation. Guess what? This was the feature that the Chinese used to get into Gmail.

Systems like these invite misuse: criminal appropriation, government abuse and stretching by everyone possible to apply to situations that are applicable only by the most tortuous logic. The FBI illegally wiretapped the phones of Americans, often falsely invoking terrorism emergencies, 3,500 times between 2002 and 2006 without a warrant. Internet surveillance and control will be no different.
As though it wasn't hard enough to lock down systems to keep information safe, now we see the results of the government insisting that companies leave a key under the mat.

Call it another grand case of unintended consequences. Government agencies -- for all manner of noble-sounding reasons -- want ease in keeping tabs on people. But as any security expert could point out, if you leave a major vulnerability, someone going to find and use it. Maybe it's time for everyone to admit that sometimes designing systems to keep everyone out, including the government, may be necessary. Have a warrant? Then ask the company, which will have access to the data. If you're really worried, then have some way of allowing 24-hour access to people who can respond to said warrant. Leaving the back door unlatched is simply stupid.

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