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Bruce Schneier at a conference in Stockholm
Bruce Schneier at a conference in Stockholm
Yves Eudes

As an internationally renowned cryptography expert, American Bruce Schneier used to be a welcome visitor everywhere. But that's no longer the case. "I used to be popular with the National Security Agency," he says. "They used to invite me to their seminars, they listened to my advice. But it's over. I was very critical after Edward Snowden's revelations on their mass surveillance programs. My ratings fell."

In English-speaking media and on his blog Schneier on Security, he lashed out against one particular program called Bullrun. The NSA allegedly internationally promoted a weakened encryption algorithm that it could break. For a researcher like Schneier, such perversion of the integrity of the scientific process is unforgivable.

In the United States, "independent" cryptography — developed outside the reach of the state — is a politically engaged science, a rebellious subject. For supporters of a free Internet, data encryption is the one and only means to protect user privacy against government intrusion. There's a ongoing sort of war between libertarian encoders and government decoders, even though they sometimes work together.

Schneier has been involved in this fight in his own way for 25 years. Born in 1963, the son of a New York judge, he studied physics and computer science before specializing in cryptography, the art of encrypting messages to make them impregnable. He soon discovered that, paradoxically, the most difficult task was not to develop efficient algorithms, but rather to integrate them in easy-to-use, reliable software for non-specialists. If a piece of software is flawed, the key's impregnability is useless. Tirelessly, Schneier exhorted theorists to focus too on less noble but essential tasks, such as programming.

Now 52, Schneier leads the same hectic life as other charismatic and mediatized scientists. On top of his job as cryptography teacher at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, he is also a successful writer of cryptography-popularization books and a board member for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an association that defends Internet freedom.

Monetizing expertise

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Russia

When Mom Believes Putin: A Russian Family Torn Apart Over Ukraine Invasion

Sisters Rante and Satu Vodich fled Russia because they could no longer bear to live under Putin — but their mother believes state propaganda about the war. Her daughters are building a new life for themselves in Georgia.

A mother and her daughter on a barricade in Kyiv

Steffi Unsleber

TBILISI — On a gloomy afternoon in May, Rante Vodich gets the keys to her new home. A week earlier, the 27-year-old found this wooden shed in Tbilisi, with a corrugated iron roof and ramshackle bathroom. The shed next door houses an old bed covered in dust. Vodich refers to the place as a “studio” and pays $300 per month in rent. She says finding the studio is the best thing that’s happened to her since she came to Georgia. It is her hope for the future.

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Her younger sister Satu Vodich is around 400 kilometers further west, in the city of Batumi on Georgia’s Black Sea coast, surrounded by Russian tourists, Ukrainian flags, skyscrapers with sea views and the run-down homes of local residents.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

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