Snowden Claims U.S. Policy Is Creating A Black Market For Digital Weapons

Edward Snowden says in a new interview with NOVA Next that the U.S. government wrongly promotes cyber offense strategies at the expense of weakening the system and leaving it open to cyber attacks from the black market.

“We’re creating a class of Internet security researchers who research vulnerabilities, but then instead of disclosing them to the device manufacturers to get them fixed and to make us more secure, they sell them to secret agencies,” Snowden says. “They sell them on the black market to criminal groups to be able to exploit these to attack targets. And that leaves us much less secure, not just on an individual level, but on a broad social level; on a broad economic level. And beyond that, it creates a new black market for computer weapons, basically digital weapons.”

Snowden points out that the White House’s own independent review panels have shown that not a single program has stopped an imminent terrorist attack on the United States. He does not believe the public is aware of just how disastrous these policies could backfire and questions the value of such programs that leave our own information vulnerable.

Snowden also points out that other countries such as Iran are ahead of us in realizing the problem:

“But it is important to highlight that we really started this trend in many ways when we launched the Stuxnet campaign against the Iranian nuclear program. It actually kicked off a response, sort of retaliatory action from Iran, where they realized they had been caught unprepared. They were far behind the technological curve as compared to the United States and most other countries. And this is happening across the world nowadays, where they realize that they’re caught out. They’re vulnerable. They have no capacity to retaliate to any sort of cyber campaign brought against them.”

We spend much more on research and development, compared to the rest of the world. So when it comes to our cyber security says Snowden, “We have more to lose than any other nation on Earth.”

Snowden said he didn’t want to overhype the problem, “Nobody’s going to press a key on their keyboard and bring down the government.” But he did emphasize that the threats from foreign governments were real and that we should be focusing more on the defense of our own information than focusing on others.

Snowden was interviewed for NOVA Next from Russia, where he has lived since releasing documents showing the U.S. had been spying on citizens through several technology companies. He is wanted in the U.S. on criminal charges for theft and misuse of classified information. Snowden dismissed former CIA director Michael Hayden’s predictions that he would wind up a sad and miserable drunk in Russia. Snowden said he only drinks water and that the country was actually great. “Yeah, I know. It’s crazy,” he told interviewer James Bamford.

Click to read a full transcript of the interview here.