In the 21st century, our daily lives are saturated with technology. Smartphones, the internet of things (IoT) mashing together individual products and appliances for greater control, voice activated assistants, connections to the cloud for calendars, schedules, data, streaming content to televisions, tablets, and other devices, GPS for routing trips, connected cars, security systems…the list is endless and growing.
On top of this, add corporate and governmental operations such as traffic cameras, red light cameras, general surveillance, online databases of personal information, integrated control of public infrastructure, and automation of the power grid. Then there are the covert actions such as hacking systems to collect data in criminal and terrorist investigations, and the widespread surveillance of ordinary citizens as part of larger operations.
Last but not least, there are the criminal and activist hacks into major corporate, governmental, and individual data sources for the purposes of identity theft, embarrassment/exposure of opponents, and other criminal intents.
The risk to the individual is significant yet most take no steps to protect themselves. This is like jumping in an automobile without any prior training and heading onto the busiest highway at rush hour. Nothing may happen but why take the risk?
When asked if they protect their communications and data, people generally reply, “I have nothing to hide,” or, “no one would be interested in my personal data,” and, “besides, it is very difficult and expensive to do.”
While it is true the majority of people have nothing to hide, anything taken out of context can be presented in an incriminating or embarrassing manner. And your personal data has a significant value to those who sell it for either legitimate or criminal purposes.
Let’s admit that modern technologies are simply too easy and ingrained to revert to the safer methods of the past; the handwritten letter or the rotary dial telephone call. Which brings us to the question, “What can everyday people and businesses do to protect their data and personal information from being intercepted or hacked?
The short answer is encryption. Encryption is the process of locking your messages and data with a set of “keys” that only the sender and recipient have. Should the data be intercepted or accessed via hacks, it is just so much gibberish without the decryption key. Problem solved!
Sort of solved. There are different grades of encryption, levels of strength if you will. And encryption can be software based, hardware based, or both. Software based solutions generally use Pseudo Random Number Generation (PNRG) to generate encryption keys. Not a bad start. Hardware based solutions can use True Random Number Generation (TRNG), much better than PRNG. And combination devices offer the strongest levels of encryption.
Freedom of expression and communication is the foundation of true democratic governments and countries. Being able to communicate freely and without fear of having messages and data intercepted and misused is critical to freedom of speech. An encryption solution, secure and easy to use, can give us all the ability to communicate fearlessly.