The following is a guest article on information security and the Internet. The editor does not fully agree with the author of the article, but I have agreed to publish it with minimal editing. Note that while the facts of the article are true, assumptions of the author are a matter of opinion. The simple ownership of firearms and survival supplies and being prepared for various survival situations does not make one an adversary of government. On the other hand, the practice of good information security can be an asset regardless of your activities. - Editor.
Information Security in the Internet Age
What is information security and how does it apply to me? That is usually the question that is asked by most of the non-corporate, non-government world (i.e., the common work-a-day person).
In its simplest form, information security or InfoSec, is keeping your information under your direct control. It is making sure that only those who you have said can have access to it, can.
The second question is normally, what do I have to hide? Or Who would want my information, Iím just a private person.
Let me get into the reasons for information security.
As a person, there are pieces of information which can have value to others that you posess. This value could be monetary, statistical or one of a multitude of others. The information could be your Social Security Number (in the US), credit card numbers, any number of account numbers, your thoughts or views on subjects, or it could be something unique to you.
The follow-up question is usually, who would want this information?
A corporation could want your statistical / demographic information for marketing purposes. Your health insurance company could want your medical history to determine your risk factor for illness. An unscrupulous criminal could want any of this information to sell to the highest bidder. Your government could want your thoughts or views to gauge where you are in the political spectrum.
There you have some of the What, the Who and the Why associated with your information, now we must look at the how can I keep my information mine question.
Most of the world, with the exception of the third world, is in a time of interaction and communication. We can make a phone call from anywhere and be connected to someone almost anywhere else in the blink of an eye. We can send email to another person across the globe in seconds.
In these communications, itís very easy to forget that these mediums for communications are public and are more akin to shouting across a crowded room, than whispering in someoneís ear. Email is especially public.
Most people look at an email before they send it to make sure they donít have too many typeos. They look at the To: field and make sure they are sending it to the correct person. They make sure they have a subject and then they click the send button. All is well...not really. People do not give much thought to what happens after they click send. They tend to think itís like the post office where they put the envelope in the mail box, the postman comes takes it away, 6 - 8 weeks later the recipient gets it, opens the letter and reads the contents.
In our mail delivery example above, email differs in some really important ways. Email has no guarantee of privacy as it is like sending a postcard to your recipient. Think of the types of things you would put on a post card. Now think of emails youíve sent. Would you ever put some of those emails on a postcard and mail it? Didnít think so.
Most people, realizing this error in judgment, get somewhat defensive and ask, well who can really read my mail anyway?
Believe it or not, a lot of people. In legitimate circles you can have your mail read by someone other than the recipient at their computer, whether it be just someone nosey looking over their shoulder or someone with malicious intent going through their computer. At any number of ISPs and connections the message travels through to get to its destination. If you live in China or a host of other oppressive regimes you probably already know.
All is not lost however. There exists an envelope for email which makes sure only the intended recipient can read it. This is encryption.
Normally, at the mention of encryption, a personís eyes will glaze over and their mouth will hang open just enough for a little spittle of drool to come out. This is normal. Encryption has traditionally been the realm of math geeks and scientists. But, like most all technology, it has gained acceptance and is becoming more mainstream and as it does, it is gaining a certain user-friendliness.
Encryption, in its simplest explanation, takes data and scrambles it in such a way as to make it unreadable except of the person who hold the decryption key. This provides a measure of protection against snoopers who want to get at your data.
Encryption is not perfect as there is no system which time and resources cannot break, but who really has the time or the resources to break that code? As an example, the FBI could not crack the encryption of a gangster under surveillance even with the resources of the FBI behind them. The gangster was using off the shelf software. Would this software protect you from the super-computers in Fort Mead, MD if you were one of their targets? Probably not for too long but are you worth that kind of resource. Again, probably not.
The software the gangster used was called PGP and is available at www.pgp.com. PGP integrates nicely with most email software like Outlook, Outlook Express, Netscape, Eudora, etc. and is quite easy to use.
I have focused on one area of securing your information. There are many, many more which also take into account your total security and are well beyond the scope of this short essay.
I am hoping that this brief introduction will make you more cognizant of the dangers your information faces in remaining your information. You are now aware that email, although not secure by default, can be. And you are now aware that you have information someone wants and could potentially use against you.
This theme of selective disclosure is throughout the savvysurvivor. In keeping a stash of weapons for an emergency or even advertising the fact that you are preparing for survival is making sure that information is secure. There are ways to communicate this information to confidants that are secure and hopefully this small taste will whet your appetite for more knowledge on the subject.
Information security has many applications and can ensure your survival. As a co-worker used to tell me, ďYour paranoia will destroy ya,Ē he failed to realize that a little paranoia is a healthy thing and can help to keep your privacy yours.
By anonymous writer, 2002
Short addendum - Alleged Spy devices found in private automobiles.