The Fourth Amendment, that Constitutional protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, has just taken another hit from the realities of electronic media. Our world has changed in a fundamental way and we need to adjust. That is the take away from the recent WikiLeaks and Russian hacking and the exposure of CIA documents. Because, aside from all the salacious details about how you can be surveilled and hacked, the leak reveals what is now a fundamental truth: there is no longer a true expectation of privacy with respect to any electronic media. If the CIA can’t protect their information, no one’s information is protected against a determined modern hacker. Secure cell phone or not, classification or not, if someone puts information out there, or even stores it in electronic form, a determined and funded hacker may get it.
So what do we do with that? To a degree, most of us are protected most of the time by our own relative insignificance and anonymity. Electronic media has massively expanded the total amount of information available – the relative banality of most of what we do is both of little interest and, given the background of an overwhelming amount of potential information, unlikely to be targeted. On the other hand, once we send something into the electronic ether, it may, in fact, continue to exist in a recoverable form for the remainder of our life time. So, if, for example, in this day of the resistance, we are engaged in political dissent, we might consider that anything we put out there might be used against us at a later date by the powers that be.
The fact that everything can be hacked also says that all electronic information is vulnerable to being corrupted or destroyed. Which means that our national security apparatus – nuclear equipped bombers and submarines – and also our banking and commercial sectors are exposed. In other words, our country, and our well-being, is vulnerable to malicious actions targeting the military, the banking sector, the power grid, and the internet itself. No doubt IT experts are working overtime to safeguard all of this – but the CIA leak shows that everything is potentially vulnerable. So the follow up question is: what has our government done to prepare for and address the worst case scenarios? We know the Russians targeted our election. It is reported that our own CIA has targeted facilities in other countries. So where do we really stand? Without evoking the paranoia of the survivalists, we might give some thought to ways in which we have become dependent and what options we may have.