Criminal hackers aren’t the only cybersecurity threat American companies are worried about. Edward Snowden’s disclosures regarding National Security Agency (NSA) spying on ordinary citizens, coupled with governmental pressure on private-sector companies to hand over customer data and modifytheir systems to provide backdoor access for government officials, have made many businesses nervous.
Not only would such access allow state officials to snoop on privacy-conscious customers, but they would also compromise cybersecurity; it would only be a matter of time before criminal hackers discovered them and used them for their own purposes. This is of particular concern in light of a recent hack by a group known only as the Shadow Brokers, who put up for sale what they claimed to be hacking tools used by NSA itself, including a list of zero-day vulnerabilities affecting systems used by major private-sector corporations. If a similar list of government “back doors” were leaked, the results to both businesses and consumers would be disastrous.
Not surprising, a survey of information technology decision-makers in the United States and the United Kingdom found that 76 percent would consider moving their organization’s data storage overseas due to privacy concerns. In response to this demand, a brand-new industry emerged: the offshore “data haven.” It’s essentially a “Switzerland of cybersecurity,” allowing data storage providers to offer companies a neutral location in which to park their data – secure from both criminal hackers and prying government eyes.
HavenCo made perhaps the first attempt at creating a data haven, located on an offshore anti-aircraft platform called Sealand. This venture ended badly before it even got started because the advantages that Sealand could provide – anonymity and security – make it that much more vulnerable.
Still, the demand for data havens continued, and a few countries, most notably Iceland and, ironically, Switzerland itself, along with up-and-comer Bermuda, are stepping up to the plate to attract customers from the United States and other nations perceived to be unfriendly to privacy.
Read the complete report in the March/April 2017 issue of Homeland Security Today Magazine here.