Thursday, November 6, 2014

The importance of secure communications

Our society is based on communication. We are social beings, we depend on each other to survive. The way we strengthened our weaknesses to confront dangers was undoubtedly evolve our communication system, which is neither the most efficient nor the most complex in the animal world, but it is the most adaptive one.

The control of media is one of the guarantees wished by every single company or government. This gives them control over the discourse, and thus the ability to redirect it to their interests. It is a fact that Facebook makes experiments on our Facebook walls and profiles. Such experiments increased the level of political commitment of Facebook users by 3%, prior the US presidential election of 2012, prioritizing discussions related to the two candidates for the presidency. Don’t you think such experiments are on the ethical and moral bounds?

The channel is as important as the media used. It is pointless that the security of a media is bombproof if its channel offers few guarantees and high risk. Dimitry Bestuzhev from Kaspersky Labs discovered how many former customers of a luxury hotel left trail and even access credentials on the tablet provided by the hotel in every room: Private information, results of searches on the browser, contact lists and even health data (such as the pregnancy of one of them). Leaving this apart, a potential attacker could have installed some spy tool to gather remotely real time data of all future customers.

Taking this situations into account, since digital communication is a cornerstone of modern society, it is worth it to have a look at the full list of messaging apps released by the EFF, where it compares their real privacy and actual user’s data management.

Sometimes it is not a bad idea to try some extensions like Shadowcrypt for Google Chrome browser, which works with Twitter, Facebook, GMail and Reddit. Thanks to a public key (one for each service), it can encrypt content from one point to another, although the recipient will need such key to decipher it.

If you still want more security, you have several options of communication tools based on anonymity, ranging from Cryptocat (browser), used by Snowden to communicate with the journalist Glenn Greenwald to Signal (Android / iOS), TextSecure (Android), ChatSecure (compatible with Facebook, Hangouts, etc.), Silent Phone (Android and iOS) for video calls and Silent Text (focused on instant messaging).

To put an end to the article, we bring you a classic among classics. No matter how much protection you use, any bug on the extensions and plug-ins of your operating system can be a vector for an attacker to “listen” to you. It would dismantle the alleged security and privacy of your communications. You may consider to have Adobe Flash permanently updated to the latest version (from company’s servers) and ensure that only loads when you wish so (click-to-play).


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