Upgrading my personal privacy one small step at a time

I got my start in computer security from the personal privacy side of the equation. Revelations over the past year have made me realize that I have become complacent, and it is time to upgrade some aspects of my personal digital privacy.

My first “paper” on security was an essay that warned that “someday, the government and large corporations will be able to search and manipulate hundred of millions of bytes of information, giving them improper leverage over individuals, who won’t have the same access to computing power or storage”. I got a B. My high school English teacher said the writing was very good, but she couldn’t accept the premise 😦 That was in the late 1970’s.

I’ve had, but rarely used PGP/GPG keys for email since the early 1990’s. I have friends who probably encrypt about 10-25% of their email, and sign almost 100%. Others encrypt and sign more, or less. Some are more consistent about this, some less. I felt that this wasn’t necessary for me, as I was a small enough needle in a large enough haystack, that “computational privacy” probably wasn’t needed in my particular case.

I’ve run my own email servers on my own hardware, off and on, for years. I’ve done the same for personal web servers, photo galleries, and other personal storage. Over the past few years, I’ve made much more use of hosted services, like Gmail, and WordPress.com (for this blog) instead of building, maintaining and securing them myself on my own hardware under my own physical control. I’m going to have to re-think some of those decisions, I guess.

The Snowden revelations, coupled with high-profile cases of seizures of data and equipment from hosting providers, and the inability of those service providers to stand against the abuse of certain government powers has led me to believe that it’s time to step things up a bit.

I want to upgrade my personal privacy stance over the next few months. I’m going to have to re-learn lots of the details of encryption, look at products that didn’t exist a few years ago, look into newer encryption algorithms and key search technologies. I expect I’ll need to make changes in the way I use email and the web and in general communicate. There are a lot of good resources out there; I’ll share what I find.

I don’t plan to wear a tinfoil hat, become a crypto-anarchist, bury guns and ammunition in the desert, or buy gold. This isn’t going to be a knee-jerk reaction, just some slow steady Kaizen  to improve my digital privacy.

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  1. #1 by Matt on February 5, 2014 - 10:30 am

    Looking forward to reading about what decisions you make and why. I have been using GPG for about a decade now, by default almost all of my email is signed. I use K9 on my phone and tablet specifically because of GPG support. I have two VPN configurations, one is a split tunnel, one routes EVERYTHING over the VPN, depending on where I am and what I am doing. I use Duplicati for local encrypted backups and SpiderOak for offsite backups. For syncing data between my machines I use btsync or git. To be able to punch through some AP firewalls I run sslh on 443 on my VPN host, it can answer for OpenVPN, HTTPS or SSH all on the same port.

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