Between Snowden, Greenwald, and the NSA, encryption is in the news. But what is it? And how can you, a mild-mannered student at an American university, use it? And why should you? You’ve got nothing to hide, after all. In this latest SocketHop, Conor Skelding (no tech genius himself) tries to lay that out.
Something to get out of the way first: this chillingly-titled NYTimes article, “N.S.A. Able to Foil Basic Safeguards of Privacy on Web.” A friend sent it to me and asked whether setting up PGP encryption is still worth it, given that title. And I asked a better informed friend.
It is still worth it, for two reasons. First, it’s worth it because it’s unknown what exactly the NSA can foil. According to cryptographers, it probably hasn’t cracked PGP (though it gets around it many other ways). The second reason is, even if PGP encryption doesn’t protect you from the full force of the NSA, it will protect you from trespassers in your GMail account, advertisers, your email provider, hackers, and thieves who physically steal your phone.
Indeed, the NSA, according to that article, is “still stymied by some encryption.” As Snowden wrote, assuming endpoint security, “Encryption works. Properly implemented strong crypto systems are one of the few things that you can rely on.”