As with any group, when a prominent figure or leader decides to go against the group's interests, the rest of the group can respond in a very harsh way. This is no different with people in the digital privacy and security field. After it was revealed that the security firm RSA may have worked hand-in-hand with the U.S. National Security Agency, some experts are refusing to take part in the company's annual security conference.
So far, eight researchers and experts have confirmed that although they were scheduled to participate in RSA's conference next month, they no longer will be attending. Their decision to not attend is directly tied to allegations that the company was paid by the NSA to use a flawed encryption standard in its Bsafe cryptography libraries for developers.
A Thinning Panel
Most of the experts who are publicly backing out of the February RSA conference were going to be part of a special security panel. Alex Fowler, Mozilla's global chief of privacy, tweeted: "Add me: just backed out of the 'Hot Topics in Privacy: A Dialog with Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Mozilla & Twitter' panel at RSA." His tweet came after Google engineer Adam Langley questioned attending the conference on Twitter, as well.
Of the eight people who have announced their withdrawal, two are from Google, and while both of them took a less combative stance against the RSA, their message was the same. Based upon statements from numerous security researchers and experts, what RSA allegedly has done will haunt the company forever, as it was an outright back-stab to the security community as a whole.
A common theme among all of the statements and open letters directed at RSA and its parent company EMC, is that the security firm turned its back on the same thing that it stands for -- security. The flawed encryption standard used by RSA likely kept data safe from the average hacker. However, if the NSA had its hand in the encryption, it simply is not secure, as the data could be easily obtained by the government agency.
Jeffrey Carr, a cyber security analyst and expert who also has pulled out of the conference, wrote in his blog Digital Dao: "RSA has issued the weakest of denials possible… failed to address most of the troubling points raised in Joe Menn's article for Reuters. This on top of RSA's horrible handling of its 2011 SecureID breach has shattered any remaining trust in the company…. I hope that RSA and EMC's leadership will eventually rise to the occasion and be fully transparent."
The one thing that is obvious is that RSA continued to use a supposedly random key generator that was flawed. Some have asserted that RSA deliberately used the flawed encryption after receiving $10 million from the NSA, although no concrete proof has been found. The security experts pulling out of the conference seemed in agreement that RSA has failed to produce a legitimate explanation that proves anything other than that it purposely promoted a bad product to developers.