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Cisco chief's dire NSA warning for Obama

BEN GRUBB
Last updated 10:34 22/05/2014
Cisco
PREDICTIVE TEXT: Cisco chief John Chambers has written a letter to US President Barack Obama.

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The internet is the "wild, wild west" where "anything goes" for spy agencies such as the US National Security Agency and this needs to change.

That is the view of networking giant Cisco's chief executive John Chambers, as the company finds itself at the centre of allegations the NSA intercepted and planted spy bugs in its equipment to aid the agency's mass surveillance operations.

If nothing changed, Chambers warned the internet could become fragmented, leading to a bad environment for businesses.

Chambers made his comments following news he had sent a letter to US President Barack Obama after photos were published showing the NSA intercepting Cisco routersbefore they were sent to customers.

"Intercepted packages are opened carefully," said a caption below an image where NSA agents surrounded a box with Cisco's logo on it.

"A 'load plant' implants a beacon," another said.

Despite the letter, which called for new "standards of conduct" in NSA surveillance, Chambers said the photos might not have been of a real interception.

"It could've very likely been a training program to say here's how you train to do something," he said. "There's been no proof nor was there any indication that Cisco's involved."

Chambers, who served on George W Bush's National Infrastructure Advisory Council after September 11, said it was important for the industry and the future of the internet that he raised his concerns.

He joined other tech leaders in questioning the future of the internetafter the cyber surveillance revelations. Eugene Kaspersky,the chief executive of Kaspersky Lab, expressed a similar fear of fragmentation last year

"I hope the president will take a lead," Chambers said. "I very much like the president, he's a good customer for us ... but we need to change."

Chambers said it would be inefficient to allow customers to pick up equipment at manufacturing plants to avoid implants being inserted into hardware. Instead, he reiterated the US government and others should agree to not "mess with the supply-chain".

"We have the most secure supply chain in the industry ... we obviously will make it even stronger."

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RETIREMENT PLANS

Despite being in good health, Chambers, 64, said the next time the media heard from him would be when he announced a transition plan for a new chief executive.

"I have a number of key leaders in this company that are very capable of doing this job," he said, referencing company president Rob Lloyd directly.

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