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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 21st year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Should we be worried?

8 March 2017

Imagine if your every word was captured by a microphone and relayed to some artificial intelligence system that would rank your utterings and, when it found cause for concern, flag you as "a person of interest".

Sounds pretty much like scifi stuff doesn't it?

Well maybe not.

The latest release of data from Wikileaks speaks to the ubiquitous nature of the CIA's spying, surveillance and bugging activities using malware as a tool.

According to what's been released, your phone, your computer and even your TV set could be spying on what you're doing right now.

How does that make you feel?

Now we expect malevolent parties such as hackers, scammers and spammers to be doing their best to get inside our hi-tech devices but should an agency of the USA be doing likewise?

If they are doing this then surely they are guilty of a crime -- if not in their own country then in the country where the "victims" reside.

Personally, I don't give a damn what the CIA or NSA does to US citizens on US soil but I strongly object when they engage in what can only be described as illegal activities against foreign nationals in foreign countries.

Does anyone see the irony here that the US government claims immunity from hacking charges because they are simply "intelligence gathering" -- yet they demand the extradition of Kim Dotcom who they claim committed crimes on US soil even though he never set foot there?

Once again we have one set of rules for those who make the rules and another set for those who must simply obey.

Not good enough.

Of course "those who live by the sword, die by the sword" and it's become very clear that the US government itself has been the subject of hacks by foreign powers and individuals. The very fact that the CIA and NSA have been able to develop clever bits of malware that allows them to turn hi-tech devices into bugging devices must surely show that others are doing the same against them.

With this in mind, are we entering an era where we're about to see a mutually assured destruction threat coming from smart devices?

There can be little doubt that both the East and West have huge arsenals of malware that they could unleash on the other side's computers, IoT and other devices. This malware could cripple power networks, brick computers, phones and tablets, and effectively throw either or both sides back 50 years in terms of available technology.

How long before we see leaders negotiating treaties to try and prevent a global malware war with a fallout that would cripple the world for weeks, months or even years?

If US agents snuck into NZ and assassinated a Kiwi for political reasons, would they be given immunity by our authorities? Remember that murder is a crime in this country and if you or I killed someone, we would be held to account for our actions.

What if US agents snuck into NZers computers and spied on them or planted malware? If you or I did this it would be a crime and we'd be punished... do you think we'd treat US government agents differently?

I guess my closing question would have to be: "Why can't we all just be friends?".

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