By Fahmida Y. Rashid
The twin disclosures last week about the National Security Agency’s extensive surveillance program accomplished something that no amount of SecurityWatch posts could ever have accomplished: It got regular Internet users talking about encryption.
Right after the Guardian exposed a NSA program in which Verizon collected and handed over customer call data to the government, the Washington Post revealed details of PRISM, a much larger surveillance program where the NSA was monitoring people’s online activity, such as email history, types of files posted online, and files being transferred, among others.
Suddenly, everyone wants to know how to send encrypted text messages, to surf the Web without anyone being able to trace their online activities, and to store files that couldn’t be accessed by anyone else. It’s nice to have people suddenly thinking about their online security, instead of just going with whatever is easy and simple.
Encryption At Your Finger Tips
Encrypting files with a private key so that only authorized people can see the contents is extra work. As is password-protecting the hard drive so that anyone can’t just turn on your computer and access the files. Sticking to only secured wireless networks means paying for the service, or setting up special software and credentials. But taking that extra step is not paranoia; it’s security sense.
Just hopping on to an open Wireless hotspot, whether it’s your neighbor’s that you are “borrowing” or connecting while at a cafe or airport, is a security risk. Anyone could be looking at what you are doing, logging your activities, and collecting data. I am concerned about criminals. Many people seem to be more concerned about the government.