The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) sent an open letter Thursday to anti-virus software companies asking a series of questions about their experience countering – or cooperating with – government surveillance.
The move comes amid revelations that the NSA has a wide-ranging menu of software exploits at its disposal that have been used to identify users of the Tor anonymity service, track iPhone users, and monitor the communications of surveillance targets. Schneier has said that the NSA only relies on these methods when analysts have a high degree of confidence that the malware won’t be noticed. That means detection by AV programs could make the difference between such attacks succeeding, failing, or being used at all.
“As a manufacturer of antivirus software, your company has a vital position in providing security and maintaining the trust of internet users as they engage in sensitive activities such as electronic banking,” the 25 signatories wrote in an open letter sent on Thursday to AV companies. “Consequently, there should be no doubt that your company’s software provides the security needed to maintain this trust.”
Will U.S.-based anti-virus companies be able to maintain their integrity, promising to remain uncompromised by government snooping initiatives, or will Americans be forced to look to foreign antivirus providers outside U.S. jurisdiction who may avoid the privacy-crippling requirements of a paranoid U.S. government?