This month marks the first anniversary of the Edward Snowden leaks that changed our understanding of online privacy. Just like the subject matter of the leaks, the reporting over the last year has offered a deluge of information. So this week, we’re posting a short series about all that data. Every day we’ll bring you another number that reminds us how much we have learned in the last year about online surveillance and the reach of the NSA.
This number refers to the bits of malicious software that the National Security Agency has put onto computers around the world. The software allows the government to conduct surveillance, but it’s also essentially building a network of weaknesses in our vast system of computing devices.
“This often introduces vulnerabilities to computer systems, and can have far-reaching effects if criminals are able to learn from some of this highly advanced code being deployed by the government,” says Chester Wisniewski of the cybersecurity firm Sophos.
I think this last data point is really profound. No matter how we conduct war, it’s important to remember that when we build new weapons, we run the risk, and the threat, of those weapons being used against us. The question is when and if it’s worth it.
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