Terrorists could use any one of several free US-based Web email services but they prefer Gmail, according to former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden.
The former US intelligence boss who retired in 2008 and now speaks as security consultant made the claim at a speech in Washington DC on Sunday, referring to Gmail as an “Internet service provider” rather than a Web-based email service provided by Google.
A Washington Post tech blog reported on Sunday Hayden saying, "Gmail is the preferred Internet service provider of terrorists worldwide".
"I don't think you're going to see that in a Google commercial, but it's free, it's ubiquitous, so of course it is," he added.
Hayden made the comments as he defended the amendments in 2008 to the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act (FISA) which cleared the NSA to legally tap servers located in the US so long as it only gathered intelligence on non-US citizens.
Hayden told the [[xref:http://www.afr.com/p/national/transcript_interview_with_former_KnS7JDIrw73GWlljxA7vdK |Australian Financial Review|]] in July the amendments dealt with an “anomaly” in FISA that treated all communications routed through the US as though they were its own citizens, therefore preventing the agency from spying on them.
Hayden sees the US government’s surveillance capabilities as a by-product of the platform being built there: America could be remembered “the way the Romans are remembered for their roads”.
As a “quintessentially American” platform, information flows through servers located in the US and it just happens that the government “takes a picture of it for intelligence purposes”, he said.
Hayden’s comments come amidst speculation that knowledge of the NSA’s PRISM program could chill consumption by non-US users of US cloud services.
A recent survey by industry organisation Cloud Security Alliance found that 10 per cent of 207 non-US members had cancelled contracts with US service providers following revelations of the program. A subsequent report claimed it could cost US cloud providers up to $35 billion by 2016 in forgone income.
But despite the potential impact on some US providers, as CSO Australia reported in July, some claim to have benefited, such as US-based secure cloud-storage provider SpiderOak.