BY EDWARD SNOWDEN
In every country of the world, the security of computers keeps the lights on, the shelves stocked, the dams closed, and transportation running. For more than half a decade, the vulnerability of our computers and computer networks has been ranked the number one risk in the US Intelligence Community’s Worldwide Threat Assessment – that’s higher than terrorism, higher than war. Your bank balance, the local hospital’s equipment, and the 2020 US presidential election, among many, many other things, all depend on computer safety.
And yet, in the midst of the greatest computer security crisis in history, the US government, along with the governments of the UK and Australia, is attempting to undermine the only method that currently exists for reliably protecting the world’s information: encryption. Should they succeed in their quest to undermine encryption, our public infrastructure and private lives will be rendered permanently unsafe.
In the simplest terms, encryption is a method of protecting information, the primary way to keep digital communications safe. Every email you write, every keyword you type into a search box – every embarrassing thing you do online – is transmitted across an increasingly hostile internet. Earlier this month the US, alongside the UK and Australia, called on Facebook to create a “backdoor”, or fatal flaw, into its encrypted messaging apps, which would allow anyone with the key to that backdoor unlimited access to private communications. So far, Facebook has resisted this.
If internet traffic is unencrypted, any government, company, or criminal that happens to notice it can – and, in fact, does – steal a copy of it, secretly recording your information for ever. If, however, you encrypt this traffic, your information cannot be read: only those who have a special decryption key can unlock it.
I know a little about this, because for a time I operated part of the US National Security Agency’s global system of mass surveillance. In June 2013 I worked with journalists to reveal that system to a scandalised world. Without encryption I could not have written the story of how it all happened – my book Permanent Record – and got the manuscript safely across borders that I myself can’t cross. More importantly, encryption helps everyone from reporters, dissidents, activists, NGO workers and whistleblowers, to doctors, lawyers and politicians, to do their work – not just in the world’s most dangerous and repressive countries, but in every single country.
• Edward Snowden is former CIA officer and whistleblower, and author of Permanent Record. He is president of the board of directors of the Freedom of the Press Foundation
BY J. NICAS / K. BENNER
THE NEW YORK TIMES
Apple is privately preparing for a legal fight with the Justice Department to defend encryption on its iPhones while publicly trying to defuse the dispute, as the technology giant navigates an increasingly tricky line between its customers and the Trump administration.
Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, has marshaled a handful of top advisers, while Attorney General William P. Barr has taken aim at the company and asked it to help penetrate two phones used by a gunman in a deadly shooting last month at a naval air station in Pensacola, Fla.
BY ALLYSON CHIU
When Alyssa LeMay heard the strange music and sounds coming from her bedroom, she walked in expecting to find one of her sisters. But the room was empty.
Then, as the 8-year-old wandered around her room alone, the mysterious song abruptly stopped.
“Hello there,” a man’s voice said.
It wasn’t Alyssa’s father, who was elsewhere inside the family’s Mississippi home. The voice belonged to a stranger. And not only could the faceless man speak to the young girl — he could see her.
BY FREETHINK / YOUTUBE
Many people complain about their internet service, but Brandt Kuykendall did something about it. A resident of the small town of Dillon Beach, CA, he found the service to his town was too slow and expensive – so he started a DIY ISP in his garage. It took Brandt months chasing down companies to get access to internet infrastructure, but once he started Dillon Beach Internet his neighbors were clamoring for access to his faster, cheaper, and better-serviced network.
BY WILL OREMUS
The advice is everywhere, from Consumer Reports to the New York Times to the Federal Trade Commission: If you care to keep your web browsing private and secure, you should consider a virtual private network, or VPN.