Insights & Analyses

Seen and heard at K(NO)W, day 1: Snowden says I told you so

May 15, 2017

Day one of the K(NO)W Identity Conference kicked off Monday in a big way with former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden, who offered his take on the ongoing global “WannaCry” ransomeware hack — an incident that has confirmed some of his most dire predictions.

Snowden’s keynote appearance Monday morning proved particularly prescient, with the hack currently attempting to extort money from companies and governments across the globe, in return for a pledge not to erase their data. The so-called “WannaCry” malware makes use of a covert security exploit in Microsoft Windows, reportedly developed by the U.S. National Security Agency.

It’s the kind of event Snowden and privacy hawks have warned about.

“It’s hard being right in the worst possible ways,” Snowden said at the K(NO)W Identity Conference Monday morning. “It’s an uncomfortable feeling.”

In his view, groups like the NSA are too focused on offensive measures, allowing them to snoop on people of interest. And in the case of the “WannaCry” exploit, it’s the aggressive tactics of the U.S. government that led to the ransomware’s creation.

“They knew about this flaw — the National Security Agency — in U.S. software, U.S. infrastructure, hospitals around the world, these auto plants and so on and so forth, but they did not report it to Microsoft until after the NSA learned that that flaw had been stolen by some outside group,” Snowden said.

The talk with Snowden was just getting the conference started, with 17 more panels throughout the day on Monday and much more to come during the rest of the week at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington D.C.