As seen in this billboard posted above the security search lines at O’Hare airport in Chicago, computer manufacturer Hewlett Packard is trying to sell its devices to businesses with the claim that it can make computers more secure. To reinforce this assertion, HP shows a photograph of a scruffy teenager casually peeking over the shoulder of a businessman in a suit who is earnestly, but obliviously, typing on his keyboard. The suggestion: Important business data on computers is currently vulnerable to young ruffians who loiter around in places where businessmen try to get their work done.
The truth is that peeping teenagers are one of the least signficant security threats for American businesses. However, Hewlett Packard has chosen this particular face to represent security threats for good reason: HP has little power to address the most serious computer security vulnerabilities.
Given what the military spies at the National Security Agency can do, the threat of a teenager looking over someone’s shoulder is downright microscopic. The NSA is sweeping up data from American computer users, both in the corporate realm and in the private sphere, on a massive level. The NSA searches and seizes information on the computers used by people in American businesses on a daily basis, and it doesn’t keep that information secure by any stretch of the imagination.
This week, we have learned that the NSA doesn’t just share its data with the Department of Justice, the DEA, and law enforcement, but even provides the government of Israel with the raw data it has seized – without removing information about Americans.
Hewlett Packard may have tools to protect corporate laptops from curious teenagers, but HP offers no protection from the unconstitutional, encryption-crushing Big Brother electronic surveillance programs of the NSA. Given this immense hole in HP computers’ security, the promises of Hewlett Packard’s marketing are absurd.
No computer company can provide adequate security for people’s compuers these days – not Hewlett Packard, and not any of its competitors either.