Winner of NSA award disses NSA

The winner of this year’s security award, sponsored by US spooks at the NSA, is a little embarrassed.

Joseph Bonneau, of the Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge would normally have been over the moon at winning such a prestigious award. After all, his paper “The science of guessing” was chosen by top academics in the security world as the year’s best scientific cybersecurity paper.

Writing in his blog, Bonneau said that he was honoured to have been recognised by the distinguished academic panel assembled by the NSA.

Yet Bonneau feels some conflict about the award, particularly after the news broke that the NSA, with the backing of sockpuppets on both sides of the political spectrum in the US, were spying on private communications on an unprecedented scale.

“Like many in the community of cryptographers and security engineers, I’m sad that we haven’t better informed the public about the inherent dangers and questionable utility of mass surveillance, ” he wrote.

He said that he was ashamed we’ve let politicians sneak the country down this path.

Bonneau wanted to make it clear that in accepting the award he did not condone the NSA’s surveillance.

“I don’t think a free society is compatible with an organisation like the NSA in its current form,” he said.

At the same time he was glad he got the opportunity to visit with the NSA and was grateful for his hosts’ genuine hospitality.

A large group of engineers turned up to hear his presentation, asked sharp questions, understood and cared about the privacy implications of studying password data. We guess they also brought out the chocolate biscuits.

Bonneau feels that America’s core problems are in Washington and not in Fort Meade.