It is possibly the biggest story of
the year and it continues to evolve. Amidst the harsh reality that
digital data has been completely vulnerable to governmental monitoring and
analysis for many years, there is growing optimism that privacy can be regained
Data encryption is the technological
answer immediately available, while the creation of international laws to
respect user privacy could be the legal answer in the long term.
This explains a wave of data
security announcements by companies like Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter and
Twitter recently announced its adoption of Perfect Forward Secrecy, which takes
the privacy and safety provided by secure sockets layer-based connections (SSL)
and raises it a notch to ensure that those who do break through the encryption
have less of a means to see what you've been up to. This is precisely designed
to stop the technologies utilized by the US government’s National Security
Agency (NSA) for online surveillance. Facebook already started using Perfect
Forward Secrecy in June and, apparently, it works.
Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!, has also promised that all data moving between
Yahoo! company servers would be encrypted with 2048-bit SSL, by the end of
March 2014. Users would have the option of encrypting all data sent between
Yahoo! servers and their computer, while the Yahoo! mail service would be
switching to default SSL encryption.
Accordingly, Eric Schmit, executive chairman of Google, has
recently made the grand statement that ‘online surveillance will end soon’.
This is particularly interesting, coming from him, as Google actually sits on
both sides of this issue; being accused of cooperating with the spying agencies
and claiming to be violated at the same time. He goes on to say that “the
solution to government surveillance is to encrypt everyone. With sufficiently
long keys and changing the keys all the time, it turns out that it's very, very
difficult for an interloper of any kind to go in."
Even co-founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, has said that the online
encyclopedia will begin encrypting communications with its users all over the
world, so that people cannot be spied on as they access information. Imagine
that, governments could be spying on your general knowledge habits too!
Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, weighed
in on this debate saying "the web and social media are increasingly
spurring people to organize, take action and try to expose wrongdoing in every
region of the world. But some governments are threatened by this, and a growing
tide of surveillance and censorship now threatens the future of
democracy". And therein lays the exact reason for all this surveillance.
of operating system have to also got in on the push towards privacy, as Microsoft
has already included automatic encryption of your hard drive contents in
important to remember that in addition to governmental monitoring, there’s the
danger posed by criminal organizations. That’s why users end up caught between
two parties watching them for entirely different reasons, but both invading
their privacy to a grossly unacceptable level.
the perspective of governments and intelligence agencies, certain suspicious
online activities or specific ‘red flags’ should probably be a trigger for
surveillance, but not the all encompassing, massive, pre-emptive surveillance
of everything that appears to be the common practice today.
As we make our leap into cloud computing, many are voicing concerns
that matters could get worse. However, the response from the specialists is
that cloud servers are actually safer as the data resides at the server center,
not on the user’s PC, which protects any data beyond the limited information
directly accessible at any point in time. Most importantly, data center servers
are only accessible to authorized agents whose identity is verified using
biometric measures like fingerprints and retina scans. These facts coupled with
data encryption software and regular security audits by third-parties provide
some comfort that maybe our future in the cloud could be secure.
Something good may
come out of this global surveillance scandal, as Tim Berners-Lee confidently predicts that the outcome will be to enshrine
users' rights in the longer-term.
We can hope that is
true, but one can’t help but think the cat and mouse chase will continue. It
has to. There can’t be a utopia, not even in the cyberworld and we have to pay
a price for the convenience we get from technology. That’s why, for IT managers
and the rest of us in business, 2014 will most likely be the ‘data encryption’
Labels: #Encryption #EncryptEverything #SSL #PerfectForwardSecrecy #Surveillance #TimBernersLee