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The NSA Wants a Skeleton Key to Everyone’s Encrypted Data 

Francisco Seco/AP - In this October 2013 file photo, a man looks at his cellphone as he walks on the street in downtown Madrid. The NSA’s ability to crack cellphone encryption used by the majority of cellphones in the world offers it wide-ranging powers to listen in on private conversations.

Encryption can protect personal data from government intrusion, which means the government wants the key to break it.

reports: Like it or not, you are your data. In this day and age, your receipts, social media activity, public records, GPS data, and internet search history are the proof of who you are. And while you may have thought you had secrets, the Federal Government would like the rest of them.

The seemingly innocuous pieces of information we trade away every day create a detailed mosaic of our lives used to target advertising and create personality profiles that are exploited by the FBI, political operatives like Cambridge Analytica, and Russian propagandists.

And those are just the legal shenanigans! Instances of malicious hacking that jeopardize social security numbers and other important data are on the rise as well.

But all hope is not lost! There is but one meaningful defense against such intrusions, one used by whistleblowers, banks, the government (often poorly), and college students: encryption.

Encryption, to oversimplify, is the process of putting your data in a combination locked safe, and it’s becoming more popular. Like all passcodes, these combinations are best stored non-electronically.

Automatically encrypted search engines and internet services simplify the process for users. They protect individuals’ data from hacking, theft, and even the government, but they also retain a repository for all the combinations they use to lock data up.

This is the Trojan horse the NSA means to use to gain access to your private data even when it is encrypted.

But that may soon change.

If the executive agencies have their way, the NSA will have a record of every lock combination in use by every company—a skeleton key, if you will, to gain access to your digital home, papers, effects, and aspects of your person without warrant or probable cause—effectively mandating that companies hand over skeleton keys to the locks that they provide to their users, at any time: what they call “exceptional access.” Read the rest of this entry »

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