Not Feeling Too Secure About our Online Privacy? Here’s What I do To Keep My Private Stuff Private

washington postWe were all surprised when the Guardian and the Washington Post published the documents that exposed the massive surveillance system that the US has built and put in place. It’s so massive that the NSA had to build a data center the likes of which has never been seen before. Snowden didn’t release all of his documents at that point though. He has also promised that there’s a lot more things that hasn’t been revealed yet that are even more devastating and revealing.

The Huge Data Vaccuum

data vacBut the documents that were released, (and many hints of other US agency programs that have been exposed in the last few years,) have me completely convinced that the US government is vacuuming up every bit of electronic data that has, is, or ever will be created. All without any regards for the sanctity of personal privacy of the people they are spying on. And, upon closer examination of the facts, (and the hints,) we find that corporations have colluded with the governments and are gladly giving up the information that the agencies desire. Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, almost all of the biggest Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have denied any connections…but, as in the court order that Snowden produced, all are probably under judicial gag orders and wouldn’t admit to anything for fear of prosecution.

They’re Getting It All, What Can We Do

OpenPGPThe revelation that the agencies may have demanded that back doors be created so they can get their data at will, and it appears that this very thing may have happened. So, what can we do to keep our private stuff just that, private? A freeware encryption program called Pretty Good Privacy, or PGP, is what I use. PGP Desktop Home version is a freeware program, and is hailed as one of the strongest encryption programs available today, but the plug-ins to encrypt your email will cost you a bit. In the end though, the security that PGP Mail provides will give you the confidence that nothing you send can only be read by the intended recipient.

More About PGP

PGP was originally fielded in 1991, and has grown and diversified since. There area lot of pros to the program, but a few cons too. Here are some of the major highlights of the software:

Cons 

  • PGP Desktop Home lacks email capabilities.
  • Support for OpenPGP and PGP/MIME is a little weak. 

Pros email logo

  • Super- strong encryption and message signing.
  • Plug-ins for Eudora, Outlook Express, Novell GroupWise, Lotus Notes, Yahoo! Mail, and Gmail.
  • GUI interface for Key management and server connections.A system tray offers the ability to instantly encrypt clipboard, or current window contents.
  • IDEA, TripleDES, Twofish, CAST, and AES algorithms are supported.
  • Smart Card integration, and the ability to run without installing on the system.
  • Windows 98/ME/NT/2000/3/XP supported in PGP Mail. 

My Personal Thoughts

Encryption at the level that PGP Mail provides me a guarantee that even governmental intervention won’t be able to crack it. As a matter of fact, the only successful hack of the PGP algorithms required the hacker to have access to the files on the senders machine…and even then the process is a long drawn out affair that even the best hackers will want to avoid.