“That’s always been the real issue with a lot of these companies,” said Luis Alvarez, CEO of Alvarez Technology Group, during an appearance on Power Talk 101.1. “Many security companies, especially foreign security companies, start as startups funded by their respective governments”.
“Israeli companies, for example, are noted for being funded by the Israeli government, and usually the folks that founded these companies are former security officials, former military or intel officials who decide they’re going to build a product or service that they have some insight into. So when you trace back these relationships, they can get very entangled.”
Of course, public and private organizations often collaborate, but these collaborations look to be more involved and secretive than most.
“There’s more than just a casual entanglement, some of these private companies that some of those in private industry count on to be essentially agnostic in protecting our interest are really serving the interests of the nations that support them. In the case of the Russian company Kaspersky Lab, there’s a suspicion that they’re being supported by the folks in the Russian government, in particular those folks close to Putin. They are suspected of providing secret access, if you will, and collecting data on behalf of the Russian government.”
And Russia isn’t the only country playing this game, as cybersecurity companies here at home have been accused of the very same actions:
“There are folks that accuse American companies in particular, Intel, FireEye, and Symantec, who all have close relationships with the US government, of doing the same sort of thing. They’ll argue that cooperating with federal authorities on investigations and trying to track down bad guys isn’t being completely subservient to the government but, in fact, is being a good citizen. So, there’s a lot to be said on both sides of that equation.”
Few would argue against the government using their connections with cybersecurity firms to catch violent or otherwise dangerous criminals, but recent developments have shown that the government is collecting bulk data on everyone, not just suspected criminals. Can we really believe that cybersecurity companies are only sharing private information to fight crime and be good citizens?
“There’s a light being shown on a lot of these companies, in particular after the whole Edward Snowden revelations where he showed that a lot of the technology companies in the US were closely aligned and being used by the NSA to do things that the rest of us don’t feel they should have been doing. So now they’re under a spotlight and it’s up to them to prove that they’re not really working for the government and they’re truly independent.”
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