It’s Time for Encryption

circuit-lockAs I write this article, I’m approaching the 14th anniversary of launching my business full-time. A lot has changed over the last 14 years in the technology landscape and the impact of technology in society has never been greater than in the timeframe since I began providing technology services to my clients. I could talk ad nauseum about the impact of social media, mobile devices, cloud computing, apps, and so on, but I don’t need to. It doesn’t take a technology expert to see this. You, the user of technology, is well aware of how much technology has changed your life. It is also you who has driven this change, because without the acceptance of the general public, all these technologies would not have the impact they do today. As technology has interwoven itself into the lives of nearly everyone in our society, one thing is becoming abundantly clear: our technology has become a virtual extension of our person. In turn, many of the details of our private lives have become digitized. This digitization offers us amazing insight into how we can better live our lives and make better use of our time, but it also can endanger our privacy if it falls into the wrong hands. The recent public debate involving Apple and the FBI has highlighted the issues that concern many people regarding the security of their most valuable data. While the debate over privacy continues, it has brought the concept of data encryption to the forefront. While to this point in time the topic of cryptography and encryption has been about as arcane as a subject can get, it is now something everyone should become familiar with. The impact of encryption technology will be an incredibly important issue that will affect our everyday privacy and security now and well into the future.

Encryption for Dummies

Simply put, encryption technology scrambles data so that is undecipherable to anyone except to those who encrypted it or their intended recipient. Whether this data stored on a drive or is in transmission, encrypted data is nothing but a bunch of gibberish to anyone who doesn’t have the virtual keys to decrypt the data. Whether it is a nosy neighbor, a common criminal, a corporate spy, or worse, encryption helps protect your privacy from anyone who may steal your devices or attempt to intercept your transmissions. Even major governments do not have the resources to forcibly crack data that is protected by the most secure modern encryption technology commonly available today. With this type of technology readily available, it would seem that we have the capability to ensure our privacy right now. The problem that while this technology is available now, not all tech companies are fully embracing data encryption and even more problematic is that many people do not take advantage of it when it is an option. The good news is that with a little effort, most of us can take advantage of modern encryption technologies on the majority of the devices and services in common use today.

While the variety of options for encryption are far too numerous to detail in this article, I will say that all major operating system platforms offer a built-in encryption option.

  • Apple’s Mac OS X includes FileVault which can encrypt your entire drive, but it is not activated by default (although the latest versions do suggest and offer to enable FileVault during the initial setup or upgrade).
  • Apple’s iOS (iPhone and iPad) by default encrypts all data stored on a device and encrypts iMessage and FaceTime data transmissions.
  • Microsoft Windows contains their BitLocker encryption, but only on their “pro” and “ultimate” versions of their operating systems. It too is not activated by default. There are third-party encryption options available for the “home” versions of Windows.
  • The latest versions of the Google Android operating system do support full device encryption, however, support for encryption varies by manufacturer and device. If you choose an Android device, I highly recommend choosing a device that supports full encryption by default.

With virtually all encryption technologies, you must use a good password to ensure that your data stays safe, as guessing your password is effectively the only way to defeat encryption. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you are interested in using encryption technology to protect your data.

Do it for the Kids

Besides keeping your own data safe, your use of encryption technology will help set a precedent in our society. The more people who use strong encryption – and demand that technology companies fully embrace it – help to ensure the future of data privacy in the United States and the world. As government agencies fight to force companies to adopt encryption technologies with built-in “backdoors,” we must stand up to those who would compromise our ability to protect our most private information and conversations. There is no compromise when it comes to data security. Virtually every single technology and cryptography expert in the world agrees that no encryption technology with backdoors is truly secure, as those backdoors will be easily exploited by criminals and malicious governments. It is one thing for politicians to target the rights of a perceived small group of people who use encryption technology but another thing entirely if strong encryption is embraced by a large portion of the population. In addition to protecting your own personal data, the data of your business, or the data of your customers, your use of encryption technology today could help set policy for generations to come.

What do you think about encryption and privacy issues? Feel free to comment below and keep alive an important discussion!