NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden will be addressing the Security Education Conference Toronto (SecTor), which runs from October 17-19, where he will deliver the keynote speech.
To say that he will be addressing the conference, of course, does not mean that he will be there in person, but his talk will be fed in via video link from his undisclosed location in Russia, where he has been in hiding since allowing his conscience to get the better of him and reporting on unethical practices at the NSA in 2013.
“SecTor is first and foremost an education conference, so our aim is to bring together the right mix of security experts, professionals, academics, sponsors and luminaries for the audience to engage with and learn from,” said SecTor director and co-founder Brian Bourne. “Edward Snowden is not only one of the biggest names in cybersecurity, but his unique situation and cybersecurity experiences also make him one of the most important and influential.”
SecTor is staged by Black Arts Illuminated Inc., which promises to bring “the world’s brightest (and darkest) minds” together to enable IT professionals to collaborate with their peers and learn from mentors to identify, discuss, dissect and debate the latest digital threats facing corporations today.
Snowden revealed to journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras that the NSA was indiscriminately grabbing the records of billions of people around the world, whether they were suspected of wrongdoing or not, the revelation of which resulted in the most far reaching reforms to surveillance policy in the United States since 1978.
“Cybersecurity is a fascinating and challenging industry that impacts every part of society and moves at such a pace it’s easy to fall behind,” said Bourne. “That’s why it’s important to have the likes of Edward Snowden appear in front of the Canadian IT community, so we engage and inspire today’s security professionals and don’t fall behind.”
Snowden worked as an expert on technology and cybersecurity for the CIA, the NSA and the DIA for almost a decade before his unplanned second career, sitting on the Freedom of the Press Foundation board since February 2014.
Foreign Policy magazine named Snowden the top global thinker of 2013.
While the obvious focus for Snowden will be on his experience as an NSA whistleblower, he will hopefully tailor his Toronto address to cover Canadian concerns, such as the absolute lack of transparency and oversight regarding our own telecommunications spy agency, the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC).
CSEC’s new $867 million, 72,000-square-metre headquarters in Ottawa, completed in 2014, houses 1,800 employees, who safeguard our government’s computer systems while also intercepting, decoding, translating and analyzing the communications of other nations, before sharing its information with CSIS, and also with the other four members of the “Five Eyes” group of countries with allied espionage agencies: Australia, New Zealand, the U.K., and the U.S.
A couple of years ago, Brazil’s Globo TV aired a report using documents leaked by Snowden to show that CSEC spied on Brazil’s Mines and Energy Ministry, using software called Olympia, blurring the lines between government and corporate espionage in the sense that Brazil’s mining industry is largely state controlled, and yet Canada’s interests in the country are mainly private-public partnerships.
Other speakers at SecTor include Laura Payne, F-Secure Chief Research Officer Mikko Hypponen, Jihadism and cryptography specialist Julie Gommes, quantum computing cybersecurity specialist Michele Mosca, and a host of others.
The Snowden talk will take place at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, South Building (level 800), at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, October 18, 2016.