Encryption, Privacy & Free Speech: An April Recap

from the looking-back dept

Post sponsored by

Golden Frog

As part of our funding campaign for our coverage of encryption, we reached out to some companies that care about these issues to ask them to show their support. Today, we’re taking a look back at a series of four posts sponsored by Golden Frog, a company dedicated to online privacy, security and freedom.

California’s Anti-Encryption Bill: At the beginning of April, we called attention to a bill in California that had gone from bad to worse. Originally a ban on smartphone encryption, it was tinkered with until it became a requirement for encryption backdoors, which could have forced manufacturers to create special California versions of their products with weakened security. Though obviously not as high-profile or as far-reaching as the Burr/Feinstein encryption bill in Senate, it was ultimately the same thing: a wrongheaded attack on device security framed as a necessity for law enforcement, despite that being a very unconvincing notion.

Thankfully, California lawmakers seem to have come to their senses on this one. The bill died without a vote a week later, after the Assembly Committee on Privacy and Consumer Protection realized what a terrible idea it was.

A Scary Thought Experiment About The NSA: A few weeks ago, Glyn Moody called our attention to a fantastic (if somewhat disturbing) presentation from 2014, breaking down some ways the NSA could infiltrate our digital networks at the most basic and undetectable level. This notion remains hypothetical but all-too-conceivable, especially when there have been plenty of examples of companies cooperating with the government and the intelligence community without being tricked into doing so.

The USTR Comes (Partly) To Its Senses: The USTR’s history with internet policy and digital innovation has always been, to put it mildly, discouraging. So we were surprised to see a change of tune in this year’s National Trade Estimate report, which called out internet censorship in China and Pakistan as serious barriers to innovation and free expression, and even pointed out the myriad dangers of the EU’s Digital Single Market strategy and the problems with a “Google tax”. This is still far from a total about-face for the USTR, with the very same report managing to contradict itself when it came to intellectual property issues — but it’s a very welcome step in the right direction.

Snowden’s Positive Impact On Encryption Adoption: National Intelligence Director James Clapper thought he was decrying Edward Snowden when he pointed out that his actions massively accelerated the adoption of encryption technology, shaving years off the NSA’s estimated timeline — but those of us who value data security and internet freedom had a different takeaway, and considered it yet another example of the good Snowden’s revelations have done. The whole thing really highlighted the mismatched priorities and values between the intelligence community and the American public (as if that needed any more highlighting).

We’d like to thank Golden Frog for supporting our coverage of these critical issues relating to security, privacy and encryption. As you’ve likely noticed, their blog is full of great content that also explores these topics. In addition to the links we’ve featured so far, here are some more posts that may be of interest to Techdirt readers:

VyprVPN from Golden Frog is the world’s fastest highly-secure VPN.
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Comments on “Encryption, Privacy & Free Speech: An April Recap”

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Anonymous Coward says:

The myth debunking link seems biased

Looking at the “I am Anonymous When I Use a VPN – 10 Myths Debunked” link, I’ve got a couple of comments to make.

First they argue that the state given direct access to major routers can easily perform a traffic correlation attack on Tor, and get the rest by adding what Tor calls “a bad apple” to the network to deanonymise the rest. The striking thing here is that it could be easier to perform a somewhat similar attack on VPNs like there’s.

Furthermore while that article points out that we can’t necessarily trust a company when the say we’re anonymous, I would push back that often there’s no practical alternative.

So to summarise it: modern security is far from perfect, so just settle for a VPN. While any decent security export would endorse the prior, the latter doesn’t follow and for my money Tor’s still better then VPNs.

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