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Encryption Drive != Encrypted Drive
October 11, 2011 12:13 PM   Subscribe

I realized when writing the ioerror post that, given the unrest this year, we should be encouraging people to use more encrypted communications whenever reasonable. How about a metafilter encryption pledge drive?

We could have fairly modest goal of regularly using one more encryption communications tool than you use currently, or at least experimenting enough to feel confident using it. In most case, this will involve convincing a couple friends with whom you regularly correspond to start using said tool as well.

I'll list some example projects in order of increasing difficulty :
  • Install and use HTTPS Everywhere.
  • Install your IM client's off-the-record messaging plugin, generate a key pair, convince a regular IM partner to do likewise, and start encrypting all your IM sessions. There are clients which don't even need a plug-in, like Adium and Jitsi.
  • Installing GPG (aka PGP), generating yourself a key pair (see xkcd on passwords), configuring your email client to use GPG and a keyserver, sharing your public with a friend using a keyserver, and exchanging a couple encrypted emails.
  • Yes, the key server matters since that's the easiest way to find people's public keys.
  • Install and use Zfone, assuming you already use SIP based VoIP already. PTSN out-dials obviously don't work.
  • Install some VPN service to which you have free access through your employer or university.
  • Learn how to use ssh port forwarding and public key restrictions work.
I'll single out off-the-record messaging as particularly easy and useful. A priori, you're friends must turn OtR off whenever they see you using an SMS gateway. Except Android has two free OtR SMS apps now, TextSecure and ChatSecure, which should work fine. I've even used OtR to encrypt facebook chat/messages, just configure the IM client to use the jabber account [youraccountname]@chat.facebook.com.
posted by jeffburdges to MetaFilter-Related at 12:13 PM (81 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

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posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:18 PM on October 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oh, I forgot to mention running a Tor relay or I2P router, which makes an even nicer protest against the treatment of Jacob Appelbaum.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:20 PM on October 11, 2011


Zrgnsvygre: rapbhentvat crbcyr gb hfr zber rapelcgrq pbzzhavpngvbaf jurarire ernfbanoyr.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 12:21 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


What are you trying to hide?!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:28 PM on October 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


While I appreciate the sentiment and I mean no disrespect to the users of Metafilter, I suspect 95% of what you are proposing is beyond the technical abilities of 95% of the people who use the site.
posted by crunchland at 12:28 PM on October 11, 2011 [13 favorites]


We are the 99%.
posted by box at 12:29 PM on October 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


I must be missing something, but I'm not clear on what this has to do with Metafilter.
posted by arcticwoman at 12:31 PM on October 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


If you're not missing something, we're doing it wrong.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:35 PM on October 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Install and use HTTPS Everywhere.

Just a tip for anybody who does this - it's great, but it breaks a not-insignificant number of mainstream websites. So if all of a sudden you're having a weird problem where something won't submit, won't load or won't complete as it has done many times before - double check this extension. It's gotten me about 6 or 7 times.
posted by cashman at 12:36 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


extension = addon.
posted by cashman at 12:37 PM on October 11, 2011


MeFi is already encrypted. If you read my comments, you'll notice that they never make any sense...

That's the algorithm at work, protecting you from me.
posted by quin at 12:41 PM on October 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'd agree that gpg isn't the most user friendly application, but https everywhere and off-the-record messaging are well within most users technical abilities. And half the sentiment is expanding your technical abilities ever so slightly honestly.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:41 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, sure, we're all interested in expanding our abilities.
posted by box at 12:46 PM on October 11, 2011


I've given up my cell phone in favor of broadcasting random sequences of numbers on my hamm radio.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:48 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


We are the 99%.

How did you make those two zeroes with the slash through them?
posted by griphus at 12:52 PM on October 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm going to make a run of one-time pads and sell them in the MefiShop for Christmas. Off to find housewives and lottery tumblers...
posted by backseatpilot at 1:07 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


And while you're at it stick this on your android phone.
I'm Getting Arrested enables anyone, with one click, to broadcast a custom message to SMS numbers in the event they are arrested.
posted by adamvasco at 1:18 PM on October 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


Given that most of my private communications are about cats and birthday parties, you need to give me a reason to go through all these technical hoops.
posted by desjardins at 1:25 PM on October 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Do you think I'm Getting Arrested will ever appear on the iphone?
posted by fuq at 1:34 PM on October 11, 2011


So who wants to help me code an I'm Getting Arrested Development app that tells your friends you're watching the show via Tobias screaming the phrase at a casting director?
posted by griphus at 1:37 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


jeffburdges: " I'll single out off-the-record messaging as particularly easy and useful. A priori, you're friends must turn OtR off whenever they see you using an SMS gateway. Except Android has two free OtR SMS apps now, TextSecure and ChatSecure, which should work fine. I've even used OtR to encrypt facebook chat/messages, just configure the IM client to use the jabber account [youraccountname]@chat.facebook.com. "

Not that any but a handful of MeFites communicate with me via IM, but for the record, I leave OTR on for all IM conversations. I don't delete my gmail archives either. So if you've ever sent me a memail, I probably have a record of it somewhere.

I see no need to turn it off, either.

desjardins: "Given that most of my private communications are about cats and birthday parties, you need to give me a reason to go through all these technical hoops."

Same. This seems like a waste of time, considering the incredibly mundane nature of my online interactions.
posted by zarq at 1:38 PM on October 11, 2011


Does the iPhone support any of this?
posted by smackfu at 1:39 PM on October 11, 2011


Given that most of my private communications are about cats and birthday parties, you need to give me a reason to go through all these technical hoops.

Because you never know when cats will be made illegal!!
posted by smackfu at 1:40 PM on October 11, 2011


Good, how do I enable GPG for facebook IM and twitter direct messages on public computers?
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 1:41 PM on October 11, 2011


I'd like to add: IPSec deployment is a key component of IPv6, providing encryption of all network traffic regardless of application.

I'm of two minds about IPSec: either it's somehow secretly breakable by government and law enforcement, or its importance to data security isn't fully understood by government and law enforcement. Hopefully it's the latter.
posted by odinsdream at 1:42 PM on October 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hey, I need 7 grams of cats for this um... birthday party tonight. Hit me back bro!
posted by Ad hominem at 1:44 PM on October 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I am a keen proponent of https everywhere (in principle) but the Megacorp I work for does a man-in-the-middle bit of (probably illegal outside Korea) fuckery with certificates, meaning that when https does work properly, which is not often, and variously for various browsers, they've got access to all my 'secure' traffic anyway (and a handy red flag to tell any logwatchers come and sniff at it).

Yes, I know, get to work, you lazy bastard. Well, let's just say my job affords ample time (usually) to pursue my own interests.

I've got IP tunnelling on my own server set up for when it's MUST GET AT THIS kinda stuff, but I prefer not to deal with the minor hassle. Until they lock things down entirely, at least.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:53 PM on October 11, 2011


All my communications are fairly benign too, but (a) you might want to help organize a protest or whatever, especially with current political climate, and (b) you'll help conceal other people who need encrypted communications more.

There have been a surprising number of my lefty friends who've switched to using off-the-record messaging this year. Yes, all we talk about is their cats, forwarding stupid links, and our dating lives, or lack thereof. Yet, they've all somehow accepted that encryption is the "socially responsible" way to communicate.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:58 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Given that most of my private communications are about cats and birthday parties, you need to give me a reason to go through all these technical hoops.

Widespread use of encryption for commonplace stuff provides cover for people who need it. If the only people using Tor or GPG are people with "something to hide," the fact that they're using it draws attention to them.
posted by twirlip at 1:58 PM on October 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


How about let's stick with the long-standing tradition of not using Metafilter for fundraising?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:01 PM on October 11, 2011


You can be as technically-minded as you want, but data encryption of communications works only if other people are doing the same thing.

Just trying to get other people to use Hushmail was hard enough...
posted by KokuRyu at 2:02 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


This isn't fundraising any more than Health Month is.
posted by desjardins at 2:05 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


How about let's stick with the long-standing tradition of not using Metafilter for fundraising?

Perhaps you're confused - nobody is asking for money.
posted by odinsdream at 2:05 PM on October 11, 2011


Install some VPN service to which you have free access through your employer or university.

And those of without access to these magical freebies should do what? Where is the handy list of trustworthy Virtual Private Network providers, free or paid, that aren't going to accept my data / subscription money and then roll over to a court order anyway a la HideMyAss?
posted by nicebookrack at 2:08 PM on October 11, 2011


How about a metafilter encryption pledge drive?

Perhaps you're confused - nobody is asking for money. --- It's an honest mistake.
posted by crunchland at 2:12 PM on October 11, 2011


Tor and I2P are free VPN like serves for everyone, nicebookrack. And their records cannot be supoenaed nearly so easily either. You cannot however use them for piracy.

I'd imagine that some commercial VPN providers protect you from the MafIAA goons fairly effectively, depending upon their nationality.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:29 PM on October 11, 2011


Wouldn't it be more secure to start an entirely new online identity when you decide to start doing things you need to protect?
posted by smackfu at 2:42 PM on October 11, 2011


I've long been interested in Tor but last time I looked into it, it looked too complicated to set up.
posted by IndigoRain at 2:53 PM on October 11, 2011


If you use Google services, 2-factor-authentication is a good way to step up your security.
posted by Jahaza at 3:11 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Shhh, ay-thay ight-may e-bay istening-lay.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:24 PM on October 11, 2011


Speaking of google/gmail, it would be utterly trivial for them (from a technical standpoint) to introduce opt-in encryption and signing; at least for peeps with a google profile [other smaller services have done it for decades, >= 1]. A little bit of extra work and a little bit of extra JS (or even Dash) code and they could make sure they were completely out of the loop in terms of being able to store what was transmitted via them. A bit more work and they could make it easy to use and PEBKAC resistant.

Ditto hotmail and yahoo.


They are the banks in the email economy, and could make end to end encryption ubiquitous.

There would be a slight processing overhead, but nothing compared to the existing TLS, DKIM, spam & virus scanning.

Anyway, since that's not going to happen: here's a chrome/gmail plugin (untested by me) for adding GPG to gmail. Please use it, and figure out some secure key clearing house.

and here's a song.
posted by titus-g at 3:33 PM on October 11, 2011


Bugger.

Here's the promised plugin: http://blog.thinkst.com/2011/09/chrome-extension-for-gpg-in-gmail.html
posted by titus-g at 3:35 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you are interested in Tor the Vidalia package makes it pretty easy to install. I have tried it in the past and it works, though it introduced a lot of lag and slowness.

Thanks for the 2 factor instructions, Jahaza, I didn't realize you could do that now.
posted by selfnoise at 4:55 PM on October 11, 2011


Jahaza is right: If you have a Google account and a phone, there is literally no reason you should not enable 2-factor authentication. It stops people from hijacking your account, which is a much larger threat to your privacy than someone eavesdropping on the communication.
posted by odinsdream at 5:34 PM on October 11, 2011


clavdivs is my encryption method.
posted by 1000monkeys at 7:46 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jahaza: "If you use Google services, 2-factor-authentication is a good way to step up your security."

Is this available in all countries, or just the US?
posted by dg at 8:00 PM on October 11, 2011


Isn't going all encryption a lot like moving to a gated community?

The exclusivity, the illusion of security, the spiralling self fed fear of unknown attackers waiting everywhere...

Seems like the road to paranoia to me.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:30 PM on October 11, 2011


Tell Me No Lies, it's more like washing your hands, or using condoms, or vaccinations. You may or may not get some direct personal benefit from using encryption, but I assure you that you want to live in a world where privacy is the default.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 10:12 PM on October 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


Gah! Now we have to worry about having unprotected text...
posted by a humble nudibranch at 11:08 PM on October 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Given that most of my private communications are about cats and birthday parties, you need to give me a reason to go through all these technical hoops.

The cats are listening.

I'm all for using encryption when needed, but the issue is getting the receiving party to see the need too.
posted by arcticseal at 4:00 AM on October 12, 2011


Isn't going all encryption a lot like moving to a gated community?
No, it's more like putting your letters in an envelope rather than writing postcards.
posted by SyntacticSugar at 6:20 AM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is this available in all countries, or just the US?
Working for me in the UK. Think there's apps available for most current smartphones.
See also: The Guardian Project and Whisper Systems suite of apps for Android.
posted by SyntacticSugar at 6:25 AM on October 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


dg: "Is this available in all countries, or just the US?"

Works for me in Chile.
posted by Memo at 12:20 PM on October 12, 2011


Wrinkled Stumpskin writes...
I assure you that you want to live in a world where privacy is the default.

That's the thing though. I do live in a world where privacy is the default and have since birth. Eavesdropping in its various forms is the exception.

This does not apply to all countries of course. There are times and places where total encryption is a good idea.

SyntacticSugar writes...
No, it's more like putting your letters in an envelope rather than writing postcards.

Perhaps that's the difference of opinion then. I still cheerfully write postcards, and would consider someone who absolutely refused to send their vacation greetings in anything other than a closed envelope for fear of . . . interception? . . . to be paranoid in a "CIA is watching me" tin-foil hat sort of way.

This whole total encryption movement is a little too far down that path for my taste.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:35 PM on October 12, 2011


Tell Me No Lies, you're not living in the world you think you are.
posted by odinsdream at 1:41 PM on October 12, 2011


  There has never been a total encryption movement, merely the obvious benefits of building our society upon more solid foundations. It's simply obvious that "you should make stuff cryptographically secure whenever possible".

I have personally come to accept the gradual erosion of privacy as also a good thing, which caused an extremely brief crisis of faith. Again the reasons are obvious if you think about social progress, what cannot reasonably be kept private should not be kept private.

  There is however ultimate issue of inequality that mediates these two 'obvious' conclusions, which I'll explain :

Imagine conservative Christians developed tools for exposing homosexuals 70+ years ago? We'd see them apply those tool against undesirables, exposing the gay they wanted exposed, while ignoring the good gays who hid themselves as ministers or politicians or whatever.

Instead, we launched the gay rights movement with the Kinsey report, which firmly established that ten percent were gay and vastly more slightly bisexual. And gays started coming out themselves willingly.

I'd expect either approach eventually results in a far more open society, but the thought experiment does so by sliding backwards into repression, while the real one reduces repression.

  We face exactly this situation today with both individuals and organizations losing their privacy. Yet, the powerful prefer that individuals and small organizations lose their privacy first, creating oppression.

Instead, we need individuals and small organizations to maintain their privacy as well as possible, using cryptography, while we search for an equitable privacy level that's enforced by mathematics. We should erode the privacy of large organizations and powerful people as quickly as possible too.

In particular, eavesdropping has not been the exception for some years, as odinsdream says, all that holds it back is processing power and the limits of the powerful's imaginations.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:58 PM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have not advocated for "total encryption" here, although I listed many tools. I merely advocated using more encryption because the more you use the harder for anyone seeking to eavesdrop on everyone.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:02 PM on October 12, 2011


I appreciate your clarifications, but I'm afraid they've only reinforced my opinion.

We live in two very different realities. Fair enough.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:24 PM on October 12, 2011


Could you check out your reality and let me know if it contains Room 641A? Mine does, and that's probably where all this confusion is coming from.
posted by odinsdream at 6:43 PM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the NSA and CIA have thus far resisted 'sharing' with other agencies, limiting how much damage their knowledge does, for now. Assange has reinforced their reticence, making them less dangerous, for now.

There is however an awkward trend towards companies like facebook aggregating and reselling enormous amounts of data, which breaks down the walls between people's personal, political, and professional lives. Is it bad if your coworkers know about your sex life? Or that patents know what their kids are texting? etc. Not necessarily, maybe we'll know so much that nobody cares eventually, but many people will be unjust fired first, poor patenting styles might become more damaging, etc.

There is also an insidious trend towards western companies selling totalitarian regimes spy equipment. You may ignore the workplace privacy issues, but you cannot deny that activists and journalists are routinely murdered for what they say. We could improve safety for journalists, their sources, and activists by getting even a one percent of IM users using off-the-record messaging. Tor relays help even more.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:22 PM on October 12, 2011


There is one aspect of the NSA that greatly concerns me, namely how much they subcontract out espionage software development. Any private NSA subcontractor will eventually start looking around to expand their market, primarily by making declassified version for law enforcement or foreign intelligence services, including the ones who routinely torture and murder people. Very bad juju!

I doubt congress will pass laws meaningfully restricting these NSA subcontractors, but using more encryption make their software less useful, especially the declassified versions.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:33 PM on October 12, 2011


odinsdream: "Could you check out your reality and let me know if it contains Room 641A? Mine does, and that's probably where all this confusion is coming from."

And I thought Room 101 was scary.
posted by IndigoRain at 1:34 AM on October 13, 2011


Could you check out your reality and let me know if it contains Room 641A? Mine does, and that's probably where all this confusion is coming from.

Oh there are things much worse that that. I know -- I've implemented CALEA for femtocells. Trying to drink from the firehose down at AT&T central is so passé when you can tap it at the source. Between femtocells and cable modems Law Enforcement has a built in wiretap to practically every home in the U.S.

But of course they also have the capability to shoot me down in the street or "disappear" me, or any other number of nasty things that have happened historically and are happening right now all around the world.

No, I'm afraid where we differ is on our trust in people and our beliefs about the motivations of everyone involved.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:05 PM on October 13, 2011


Do you think the Egyptian SSIS were motivated by evil? No, they're simply authoritarian bureaucrats trying to maintain order. They just went about it using kidnappings, torturers, false flag terrorist attacks upon their own country, etc.

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

There is a shared ideology of individual freedoms that supports the restraint shown by western law enforcement and intelligence services, well you've witnessed it I presume. Yet, those underlying shared principles have never created concrete limits upon their behavior. We impose those only by freeing criminals who were treated improperly.

We should in-fact seek to expand our civil liberties wherever reasonable. Ain't much risk you'd be assassinated, but you could very easily be shot and killed by a confused cop. There is no reason for regular cops to carry guns during regular patrols where interactions with armed criminals is unlikely, so Europe has mostly restricted cops from wielding firearms without specific orders from higher up.

There is even less reason for our governments to be reading anyone's personal correspondences without a warrant. And a warrant lets them obtain his private keys through other bugs. Facebook has more reason since their providing some direct services, but they cannot be trusted as far.

Also, how would you feel if you knew that your CALEA implementation was later used by the Egyptian, Syrian, Iranian, etc. secret police for mass spying, occasionally resulting in torture? I'd imagine you'd feel betrayed by your employer who sold it, no?

posted by jeffburdges at 6:04 PM on October 13, 2011


No, I'm afraid where we differ is on our trust in people and our beliefs about the motivations of everyone involved.

I don't even know what you're trying to say here. I genuinely don't understand. I trust my neighbors, but this has no bearing at all on how I want my data packets treated between here and San Diego.

Encrypting my backups between here and there doesn't somehow lessen my trust in people. It secures my belongings against wrongdoing.
posted by odinsdream at 6:48 PM on October 13, 2011


Encrypting my backups between here and there doesn't somehow lessen my trust in people.

That could also be said of someone burying backup disks in the back yard. And putting barbed wire fences around that yard. And building a moat. And stocking that moat with extremely hungry and irritated piranha.

But I think you would agree that at some point in that chain of events your view of that person would shift from "wow, that guy takes data security really seriously" to "this seems a little obsessive" to "I'd rather not have much to do with someone who's daily routine includes making sure his fish are annoyed."
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:50 AM on October 14, 2011


There is even less reason for our governments to be reading anyone's personal correspondences without a warrant.

I completely agree. There are a few cases winding their way through the system now; I would very much like for the Supreme Court to get their hands on the issue.

But I'm not sure exactly how to connect the dots here. Are you suggesting that actively trying to add encryption to your daily routines is, rather than a reaction of personal fear, a political statement?

Also, how would you feel if you knew that your CALEA implementation was later used by the Egyptian, Syrian, Iranian, etc. secret police for mass spying, occasionally resulting in torture? I'd imagine you'd feel betrayed by your employer who sold it, no?

Not in the least. I build powerful tools and I have no illusions about how they may be misused. In the end I believe they do more good than harm, or I wouldn't build them.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:54 AM on October 14, 2011


I don't even know what you're trying to say here. I genuinely don't understand. I trust my neighbors, but this has no bearing at all on how I want my data packets treated between here and San Diego

BTW, it's my turn to be confused. If you trust your neighbors then exactly what are you concerned will happen to your data on the way to San Diego?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:58 AM on October 14, 2011


I use off-the-record messing and pgp encrypted email with any friends who agree because doing so provides cover for people who might need privacy, ala activists, protest organizers, etc. It's vaguely like being a vegetarian except not sacrificing tasty tasty meat!

Isn't the point really that encryption costs you literally nothing, maybe cracking a manual the first couple times you. Btw, GPGTools makes GPG Email pretty painless under Mac OS X, although they're still upgrading for Mac OS X Lion.

Wait. Are you seriously suggesting that odinsdream should use an unencrypted cloud backup solution for personal data like bank account information? You should really use encryption for anything containing financial records.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:41 AM on October 14, 2011


Wait. Are you seriously suggesting that odinsdream should use an unencrypted cloud backup solution for personal data like bank account information?

No, I consider encryption of financial data to be something a reasonable person would do (although I do hope he's encrypting the files himself instead of relying on the cloud solution to do it for him!). But he wasn't talking about just encryption financial records.

Isn't the point really that encryption costs you literally nothing,

This isn't the point for me. For me the issue is that encryption has a specific use -- to prevent people with an interest in your private data from accessing it. People who think that all of their messages are being intercepted because someone is interested in it are a bit down the rabbit hole for me.

However, you propose a different reason for using encryption:

I use off-the-record messing and pgp encrypted email with any friends who agree because doing so provides cover for people who might need privacy, ala activists, protest organizers, etc.

I have serious doubts about the effectiveness of this, but as a reason to use encryption it seems very reasonable to me. I had not thought about it that way before.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:23 PM on October 14, 2011


A Day in the Life of Privacy
posted by jeffburdges at 9:57 AM on October 16, 2011


Tell Me No Lies, I feel like it's going to be impossible to have an effective dialog with you. It's either end-to-end encryption, or no encryption. Partial encryption is just as good as no encryption.

There is no slide into "crazy batshit insane encryption." For instance, when a newer, more secure encryption protocol comes out for SSH, I'd enable it. It's a few letters of typing, the flip of a few bit. It's an inherently mundane act.

Your comparisons to militant survivalists are baseless.

BTW, it's my turn to be confused. If you trust your neighbors then exactly what are you concerned will happen to your data on the way to San Diego?

I think your confusion is because of our fundamental disagreement over who's listening, as indicated by this further comment:

People who think that all of their messages are being intercepted because someone is interested in it are a bit down the rabbit hole for me.

All of your messages on the internet are being intercepted. This is a statement of fact. Whether someone's actually interested in your particular message isn't known.

Why you're railing against encryption is very unclear to me. I'm not sure what statement you're making by avoiding encryption.
posted by odinsdream at 6:29 AM on October 17, 2011


All of your messages on the internet are being intercepted. This is a statement of fact.

You've repeated that twice now. I can see that you believe it, but let's consider it a bit.

The total amount of traffic on the internet was 240 exabytes in 2010.
The total amount of disk that shipped in 2010 was 5 exabytes.

Let's go ahead and assume that 90% of internet traffic can be dropped on the floor as uninteresting (50% is Netflix for starters)

In order to capture the remaining 24 exabytes the NSA would have to have production facilities that are the equivalent of all of the drive manufacturers in Southeast Asia. They then would need to multiply that facility by a factor of 5. It would require tens of thousands of employees at least; Secrecy seems unlikely.

However, there is a another approach: They don't have to store it, they just have to sniff it.

That situation is even worse. The highest end devices (the ones that handle long hauls) that run the internet can barely keep up with hardware switching, which usually is a matter of inspecting 4 bytes per packet. The average IP packet size (which you'd have to sniff all of) is 557 bytes and you'd searching for a random string in a random location instead of well formatted bytes at a fixed offset. In addition the whole TCP connection needs to be stored for its duration because it doesn't help anyone if you only capture the one packet containing the keyword. UDP is even uglier.

In any case, we'll stay low and allocate 139 machines per high end router. Room 641A is getting a little crowded at this point.

A facility like ATT's in San Francisco is going to have a minimum of 5 high end routers. So that's 695 devices. And there are multiple carriers with long haul offices in San Francisco so let's say conservatively that you have 2800 machines to maintain to sniff all the traffic going through one city.

You also have to do it in LA, Denver, New York, and Atlanta.

An even bigger problem is that only handles the long haul traffic. Remember that the internet is designed for shortest path, so if you're going to sniff people talking in the same geographical region you're going to need at least one (although probably many more) of these sniffer boxes in every phone company central office in the entire country. That many black rooms would be extremely difficult to hide.

Last but not least there is what to do with the results. What exactly are you searching for? It's hard to think of a keyword that would not result in millions or billions of false hits. The signal to noise ratio would be infinitesimal.

So let's return to this

All of your messages on the internet are being intercepted. This is a statement of fact.


In my reality this is not the case. There is only the capacity to intercept a very small percentage of internet traffic. Targeted wiretapping is where it's at.

I'm not sure what statement you're making by avoiding encryption.

My statement is "I encrypt files when I think there's a reasonable chance that they would be intercepted by someone who would be interested in them." My statement is also "going beyond that is chasing shadows."

(although jeffburdges has presented me with new way of thinking about that)
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:50 PM on October 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Analysis of 250,000 hacker conversations ;)
posted by jeffburdges at 5:45 PM on October 17, 2011


Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean that they're not out to get you.
posted by crunchland at 6:07 PM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Locks are to keep the honest people honest.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:06 PM on October 17, 2011


My statement is "I encrypt files when I think there's a reasonable chance that they would be intercepted by someone who would be interested in them." My statement is also "going beyond that is chasing shadows."

I'm so very glad you're comfortable quantifying "reasonable chance" and "someone who would be interested".

For me, these are completely unknown variables. So, I make the very easy decision to encrypt all communication where possible. You make it sound like this choice is somehow comparable to burying cans of bacon in my yard. I could not disagree more - encryption is simple to implement and enable. As such, it should be the default.
posted by odinsdream at 8:51 PM on October 17, 2011


Analysis of 250,000 hacker conversations ;)

There's a hacker forum with 220,000 users?

We've got get on this. Matt, I propose blackhat.metafilter.com, a totally unmoderated subsite that exists solely to separate script-kiddies from their hard earned allowances.

(interesting link, though)
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:38 PM on October 17, 2011


Yum, tasty tasty bacon! ;)

I should really write an fpp on encrypted online backup solutions like Tahoe-LAFS, Wuala, etc. citing why most known well ones like dropbox cannot be trusted. Imho, that's really the most immediate threat for most people. There must be thousands with their bank account passwords or customer data sitting unencrypted on DropBox, iCloud, etc.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:45 PM on October 17, 2011


I would love to read that fpp, jeff--this has been a very interesting thread.
posted by box at 7:30 AM on October 18, 2011


previously
posted by jeffburdges at 6:07 PM on October 31, 2011


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