By Alexander Bissell
Just as Wikileaks released bombshell information about online privacy breaches, Cuesta College became next door neighbors with California’s newest cyber security center.
The California Cyber Training Complex, which opened its doors in March, is located on the National Guard Base, Camp San Luis Obispo, adjacent to the east end of campus.
The cyber security center sits on the largest fiber hub in the United States.
This means, that fiber optic cables connecting the U.S. with countries west of California — like China, Japan and South Korea — make San Luis Obispo a bottleneck for information and a key site for cyber security.
Cuesta students question whether the CCTC makes them safer or if it could infringe on their personal privacy at a time when the issue of national security versus Constitutional privacy rights has come to the forefront of American political debate.
Just five days after opening the CCTC, Wikileaks released one the largest leaks in recent history — Vault 7.
Vault 7 focuses on American cyber intelligence and methods supposedly used to protect Americans from cyber attacks.
Wikileaks described Vault 7 as: “Year Zero introduces the scope and direction of the CIA’s global covert hacking program, its malware arsenal and dozens of zero day weaponized exploits against a wide range of US and European company products, include Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows and even Samsung TVs, which are turned into covert microphones.”
Although many of the methods for ensuring cyber security were intended to be used to keep Americans safe online, the track record of the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency have shown that on multiple occasions CIA and NSA operatives have used the agencies resources to spy on previous romantic partners as well as everyday civilians, as seen in previous leaks from Wikileaks.
“I have always felt in general that privacy […] is an illusion,” said William Carney, a broadcast communication major at Cuesta. “Within the internet, within the digital world every single thing is accessible through the right processes, through the right code points, everything has a backdoor, everything has a way in.”
The CCTC remains separate from the accused agencies from WikiLeaks, focusing more on cyber crime in California.
“The CCTC is a robust, multi-agency effort to protect California through enhanced cybercrime forensics and statewide tactical response training,” according to the CCTC’s website.
Although the CCTC is pooling from local college students for cyber security training, they say they haven’t seen any impact in recruitment following the release of Vault 7.
“We haven’t seen any effect on recruitment due to WikiLeaks,” said Capt. Jason Sweeney, public affairs officer for the CCTC.
The CCTC is currently partnered with local law enforcement and the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s office to ensure a more secure California.
“The idea being the resources of [agencies like] the Arroyo Grande Police Department, the San Luis Obispo Police Department, the County Sheriff’s Office, San Luis Obispo Police Department, and the District Attorney’s Office will be housed under one roof where we can help each other solve their crimes,” District Attorney Dan Dow stated in a press release.
According to the Director of the CCTC, Bruce Burton, the CCTC was not involved in any way with any of the actions mentioned in the leaks.
Burton continued that the CCTC encourages Cuesta student and faculty participation in the future for training and competitions the complex will be hosting.
The center brings a lot of potential for opportunities for the community and Cuesta, said Brian Kreowski, a local lawyer and political science instructor at Cuesta College.
“It may inspire students, it may bring dignitaries, it may bring economic opportunities to the community, on that line I think it’s a good thing,” Kreowski said.
However, he pointed out that without transparency, the CCTC could be a threat to Cuesta student privacy. Students agreed, including broadcasting major Carney.
“My privacy, as much as I value it, doesn’t exist,” Carney said, “because I can’t control it.”