How concerned should I be about email/net privacy?
May 26, 2006 1:03 PM   Subscribe

How concerned should I be about email/net privacy?

I caught a History Channel special on codes last night and the latter portion dealt with modern encryption and PGP. It got me thinkin', with all the recent NSA news (not to mention other devious interweb dwellers) how should I protect myself?

Or should I worry about it at all? Any tips or personal methods would be appreciated.
posted by TetrisKid to Technology (7 answers total)
Use strong encryption if you're sending sensitive information:

• PGP or GnuPG for email
• Encrypt your hard drive (Windows Vista | Mac OS X FileVault | Linux)
• Use one-time pad or strong password authentication methods
• Don't use cell phone or landlines to communicate; use VoIP with end-to-end strong encryption
• Keep your passkeys safe, long and strong
• Never use the same password for multiple accounts
posted by Mr. Six at 1:21 PM on May 26, 2006

Or should I worry about it all?

My attitude to email and net privacy is summed up by a Dilbert cartoon. Dilbert has just described to Dogbert his new e-mail encryption software.

Dogbert: "Who would want to read your messages?"

Dilbert: "Somebody might want to read my messages. It could happen!"

Dogbert: "And maybe you should carry pepper spray in case supermodels try to kiss you."
posted by matthewr at 1:21 PM on May 26, 2006

Basically assume anything you send over the net can be seen by anyone in the world. It's unlikely that anyone will target you specifically but there is always the chance that some yahoo will find your traffic interesting.

Mail especially is easy for admins in control of the mail server it resides on to browse thru looking for juicy bits.

Some of the risks were touched on in this semi-train wreck.

Mr. Six writes "• Encrypt your hard drive (Windows Vista "

TrueCrypt doesn't need an OS that hasn't been released yet.
posted by Mitheral at 1:39 PM on May 26, 2006

Not very.

The question isn't "can they see my traffic" (they can) but why they would care?
posted by delmoi at 2:34 PM on May 26, 2006

The question isn't "can they see my traffic" (they can) but why they would care?

Oh, the days of innocence.

Regularly encrypting communications is a great habit to get into for anyone. I wouldn't worry too much about the strength of your encryption, to be honest. You're not going to stop a concerted INTERPOL effort to spy on you unless you rearrange your life completely -- what you want is to discourage casual eavesdropping.

If some guy hijacks your ISPs mail server and trolls for names/addresses/credit cards/phone numbers/passwords/whatever, even weak crypto will keep you safe.
posted by Jairus at 3:44 PM on May 26, 2006

Matthewr, I'd have agreed with that, then in the last months of my marriage, and then several months later, I was confronted with the contents of private emails (the first time he'd been getting into my computer, which was in the room--the second time, months after I moved out, he and his friends were hacking my accounts), which were, of course, twisted to paint me in the worst possible light. If you get in a fight with a friend or an ex who has another, tech-savvy friend, someone might want to read your emails.

That said, someone *could* be scoping your (snail) mailbox to intercept interesting mail, or going through your trash to get paper scraps you've written on. Everyone I've known who's seen a divorce lawyer has been told to assume all of that is going on, but you still can't live your whole life assuming someone wants to watch everything you do without going crazy. It's up to any given person how cautious it's important for them to be. Is what you're saying in those emails likely to get you fired, sued, divorced, or get your identity stolen? If it's sensitive stuff, by all means, encrypt it. Why take chances? If you're worried that sending your brother a dirty joke will come back to haunt you, on the other hand, there's probably not much point.
posted by Cricket at 4:01 PM on May 26, 2006

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