How Much Is NSA Spying Costing In Lost Productivity?

George Washington's picture

NSA spying is costing the U.S. tech industry tens of billions of dollars. And see this and this.

It also undermines trust in U.S. companies, fellow Americans and our government. Given that trust is the foundation for a prosperous economy, this is really bad for our economy.

But there might be another big cost to mass surveillance: loss of worker productivity.

Specifically, top computer and internet experts say that NSA spying breaks the functionality of our computers and of the Internet. It reduces functionality and reduces security by – for example – creating backdoors that malicious hackers can get through.

Remember, American and British spy agencies have intentionally weakened security for many decades. And it’s getting worse and worse. For example, they plan to use automated programs to infect millions of computers.

How much time and productivity have we lost in battling viruses let in because of the spies tinkering? How much have we lost because “their” computer programs conflict with “our” programs?

Indeed, Microsoft’s general counsel labels government snooping an “advanced persistent threat,” a term generally used to describe teams of hackers that coordinate cyberattacks for foreign governments.  It is well-known  among IT and security professionals  that hacking decreases employee productivity.    While they’re usually referring to hacking by private parties, the same is likely true for hacking by government agencies, as well.

And the spy agencies are already collecting millions of webcam images from our computers. THAT’S got to tie up our system resources … so we can’t get our work done as fast.

Moreover, the Snowden documents show that the American and British spy agencies launched attacks to disrupt the computer networks of “hacktivists” and others they don’t like, and tracked supporters of groups such as Wikileaks.

Given that the spy agencies are spying on everyone, capturing millions of screenshots, intercepting laptop shipments, creating fake versions of popular websites to inject malware on people’s computers, launching offensive cyber-warfare operations against folks they don’t like, and that they may view journalism, government criticism or even thinking for one’s self as terrorism – and tend to re-label “dissidents” as “terrorists” – it’s not unreasonable to assume that all of us are being adversely effected to one degree or another by spy agency operations.

How much loss of productivity has this caused?

I’ll hazard a guess: billions of dollars of lost productivity as a nation.

Afterword: Bill Binney – the high-level NSA executive who created the agency’s mass surveillance program for digital information, a 32-year NSA veteran widely regarded as a “legend” within the agency, the senior technical director within the agency, who managed thousands of NSA employees – tells Washington’s Blog:

There are several sides to spying costs. First, is the lack of thinking by the government and industry as to the consequences of their activities being exposed. That turns out to be cost in commercial sales and futures/trust.


The other costs involve weakening systems (operating systems/firewalls/encryption).  When they do that, this weakens the systems for all to find. Hackers around the world as well as governments too.


These costs are hard to count. For example, we hear of hackers getting customer data over and over again. Is that because of what our government has done?


Or, how about all the attacks on systems in government? Are these because of weakened systems?


Bottom line, if we (including our government) don’t help solve weaknesses in these systems, then we all lose.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
disabledvet's picture

There's doubling down on losing (Iraq, Afghanistan)...and there is just having no plan to begin with.

The Strategy of "holding Russia as whole" while sacrificing an entire Generation has seemed to have succeeded. And now we export massive quantities of oil and natural gas as "Plan Victory."

And down in some City somewhere some clown is jumping up and down saying "I won, you lost !"

Pathetic. Worst Government in US history...with nothing more than "feed the beast" as the solution.

I could think of nothing more fitting than a Bush versus Clinton Presidential.

q99x2's picture

The NSA works for Putin. How about the president pulling a Lindsey Graham yesterday hinting that the globalists were going to nuke NYC. My stumach is having me type this kind of stuff because it anticipates problems with food in the near future.

xavi1951's picture

Ever notice how much Jimmy Carter looks like Achmend the Dead Terrorist?

Reaper's picture

Our government is run by those who would fail,if not in government. It's the Peter Principle's final step, where everyone in government has risen above the level of his incompetence and their only concern is protecting their job. To understand unintended consequences is to think outside the box. When thinking within the box is above your intellect, thinking outside of the box is even more fearful.

Clark Bent's picture

Doc-10; because .gov is fascst in its thinking, it is constitutionally unable to understand the value of your observation. Meaning they will never get around to self-criticism or reflection because the mere fact that they (the exalted) are doing these things means they are the top priority. Our little existences are of no significance individually or in sum. Fo'ward! 

doctor10's picture

THE only benefit ever, relative to the rest of the world, of being an American, have been  the Constitutional protections and the Bill of Rights.

Historically it made capital more valuable in the USA than anywhere else in the world.

Today capital is worthless in the USA. and will remain so as long the is a corporate fascist state.





esum's picture

Assbook (FB) has 50% population penetration in the ussa... therefore cost effective cutbacks in NSA snooping budget in direct proportion should apply. After all 50% tell every little fucking detail of their boring lives every day... So the NSA can focus on the other 50%.... focus on Middle East, Asia, Africa which is where the bad guys are in the first place and interstingly enough they have anywhere from 3.9% to 9% population penetration... Maybe that is why our "intel" cant tell us shit in advance... great at mopup ops though...hey lets turn over control of the internet to russia, china, iran and n. korea.. that will definitely foster human freedom, harmony and a free exchange of ideas.... 

cherry picker's picture

If my government does this to me, then there is nothing morally wrong with me doing the same thing to them, taking their pictures, hacking them, selling the info, maybe to Putin?

What goes around comes around.  NSA and CIA you forget who feeds you and you bit your masters hand, now comes pay back time and it is only a matter of time before all of you are exposed.

Get out while the going is good.

JamesBond's picture

Just watched CSPAN this morning for a few moments. We can all rest easy now because the White House and Congress are close to a "wholesome Ageement' regarding the powers of the NSA.  You know, the agreement that the NSA can continue to violate our civil rights and our right to shut the fuck up about it.




Pee Wee's picture

You can bet your ass they are.  They are pushing the police state into the lawless, unaccountable, untouchable Fascist corporate state -- just like your money, health and food!

When do the lists of NSA "employees" get published?  Where can I go to visit my local NSA representative and protest/redress my government!?   Take a number, that's national security.

Vote out every Congressional encumbant that signed on to the Patriot Act myth.  Throw every last mutha-one of them out and tell them - TELL THEM TODAY THEY ARE GONE.

NickVegas's picture

How to destroy the American tech industry 101. You would have to think that this is by design, part of the master plan.

kchrisc's picture

Not concerned so much about lost productivity on my PC.

I am concerned with their criminality, treason and violations of my Life, Liberty and Property.


"Won't effect the productivity of my guillotine either."

malek's picture

Asking how much NSA Spying costs in Lost Productivity is about as much on target of the real issue, like asking how it NSA Spying affects the internet generation of cute kitty images.

cynicalskeptic's picture

A related - but unasked - question is 'How much government productivity is lost to porn viewing and other irrelevant to work computer activities?'

You don't really get the feeling that the NSA or anyone else is monitoring the SEC and making sure they are doing their jobs instead of watching porn - but if a State Attorney General prosecuting Wall Street firms for fraud is using an escort service...... THAT is of interest......

Clark Bent's picture

Well that is why you have to record every phone call, mouse click, etc. if anyone should ever question the propriety of government doing whatever it wants, you can review every move they've ever made, or just as easily frabricate lots of destructive moves, and voila, critic neutralized. And don't bother running for office if you are not preapproved already. This is the danger of the police surveillance state. 

mrmister's picture

It cost very little compared to what it is costing them.  While they waste their time sifting through normal joe's communication, Snowden employees are getting out the backdoor with everything. You know Snowden can't be the only one. I bet every computer device they have has some kind of backdoor to somewhere. Everything.

cynicalskeptic's picture

Systems consultant suggested a 'free' firewall system for the server at work.  In the fine print it's made clear that 'they' - the providers - will have access to 'update' their 'protection' (a backdoor that does not require your approval to enter) AND that the data collected in maintaining this 'protection' - attempts at access and pretty much anything 'they'  consider 'relevant' will be provided to governmental authorities so 'they' can 'protect' you better from unauthorized access attempts.

The problem is that this 'protection' doesn't protect you from your 'protectors' or governmental authorioties but instead goives them free access.

Better to pay for better protection that you (hopefully) have some real control over.   But do you EVER really know what's in the 'updates' that get installed?


stant's picture

it cost boeing 4billion$ in lost sales to brazil.

sushi's picture

There is another aspect to this story that goes unmentioned.

During the Regan era the US shipped pipeline control systems to the USSR. These systems were "rigged" to self destruct and caused major fires and pipeline interruptions. The Snowden files document the fact that US firms selling computer hardware had some of their deliveries "diverted" so that spy code could be pl;aced on the device. You order a replacement hard drive for your server farm, the order is redireted to a NSA shop, they ship you a "Special" drive, you insert the special drive in your sserver farm and bingo you are online to NSA 24x7.

Conemplate the fact that almost all miliary hardware is dependent on software processing systems. The F-35 reportedly contains in excess of 9 million lines of code and it is delays in coding that are slowing down the overall production program.

Why would you build advanced weaponry and sell to a foreign power and risk the chance of your advanced weaponry being used against you some time in the future? Iran still runs F-4 Phantoms purchased by the Shah.

If you have the technical capabilty would it not make sense to embed a few lines of code that you can access remotely and use to trigger a shutdown of the hardware? So if you face an enemy that is equipped with US hardware you push the big red button and all that hardware does a rest and becomes incapable of offensive action. 

I do not think that I am the only person on the plant to have thought of such a cute feature.

The Wisp's picture

It all Comes Back Ten Times they Say..

  Karma is a Bitch...

Dick Buttkiss's picture

"Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage's whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men." — Ayn Rand

We live in increasingly savage times, in other words, as men, in disrobing man, rob him of the dignity he requires to reveal himself to his fellows and reap the fruits of that revelation.

Clark Bent's picture

The New Dignity is defined as the privileges of being approved by the almighty State. To go against the State is to earn the full violence of the social pop culture community, and you are a racist, homophobe whatever. This is why DHS is spending money trying to brainwash our internal security forces that adherence to individual liberty, traditional or religious ideas, and The Constitution, must all be redefined as subversive. Meanwhile the soviets infiltrating every agency and all "partnering" fascist businesses are retraining the culture that totalitarianism is American. Soon we will have securtiy forces, and a pink military too, that recognizes traditional American values as foreign and enemy. Time is running short...

Dick Buttkiss's picture

The would be the New Dignity of Newspeak, in other words, and while what you describe is true, it is so sociopathic as to be self-destructive, the Deep State "fracturing into disunity — — while the Deep Web — — absorbs the resulting chaos into a smooth-running black market beyond the reach of the "authorities," society flourishing in inverse proportion to the state's demise.