For years, we have been told that “HTTPS” in the URL means that a site is secure, and we have believed that heavily encrypted sites (such as cloud-based applications) are also secure. On the other hand, we also know that a lot of hacking goes on.

So, the question — are we EVER safe — is really rhetorical, because the answer is never. Nonetheless, the following NY Times story is still unsettling. What do YOU think about the balance between privacy and surveillance in this era of heightened awareness of terrorism?

According to that story, as reported by Nicole Perlroth, Jeff Larson, and Scott Shane:

The National Security Agency is winning its long-running secret war on encryption, using supercomputers, technical trickery, court orders, and behind-the-scenes persuasion to undermine the major tools protecting the privacy of everyday communications in the Internet age, according to newly disclosed documents. The agency has circumvented or cracked much of the encryption, or digital scrambling, that guards global commerce and banking systems, protects sensitive data like trade secrets and medical records, and automatically secures the E-mails, Web searches, Internet chats, and phone calls of Americans and others around the world, the documents show.”

“The agency’s success in defeating many of the privacy protections offered by encryption does not change the rules that prohibit the deliberate targeting of Americans’ E-mails or phone calls without a warrant. But it shows that the agency, which was sharply rebuked by a federal judge in 2011 for violating the rules and misleading the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, cannot necessarily be restrained by privacy technology. N.S.A. rules permit the agency to store any encrypted communication, domestic or foreign, for as long as the agency is trying to decrypt it or analyze its technical features.”

“The N.S.A., which has specialized in code-breaking since its creation in 1952, sees that task as essential to its mission. If it cannot decipher the messages of terrorists, foreign spies and other adversaries, the United States will be at serious risk, agency officials say.”

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7 Replies to “Are We EVER Safe Online?”

  1. Coming from a Records Management, Information Governance and Identity And Access Management background, I have learned that any time a record (any type of data point) is created, it can be potentially accessed by others. If you are connected to the internet in any way, information can potentially be obtained from your devices. Strong Anti-Virus and Spyware protection are quite important. It is also important to have a secure Firewall. That being said, I always suggest to fellow teammates and students, anything you put out there should be done with the understanding that it is a permanent record that can potentially be seen by anyone.

    1. When it comes to internet security I believe we are one hack/breach away from having many public records being placed in the hands of criminal enterprises. I would say we are not safe online, all you have to do is look at facebook people put their personal information online for the world to see. With the current revelations revolving around Edward snowden we can now see that our privacy on the internet is little to non existent.

  2. Computer security experts consistently say that anything done online is not secure. They strongly recommend not doing any banking online, period. Clearly, that’s not a position that either banks or merchants want to hear.

    Understanding that there is no privacy on the Web would also sharply reduce the use of social media. Do you really want a future employer to see how often one goes bar hopping, or the immodest photos from a raucous party?

  3. We never are truly safe online anywhere. With modern advances in technology as well as increased interest in computers and the internet in general, hackers can honestly be anywhere. While many claim that these sites are safe, there are always people out there who know how to surpass the protection on the system. It is very difficult to remain private in today’s society as a result of terrorism threats and global current events. It is no easier to remain private on the internet nowadays.

  4. When we log into our emails, or sign up for Facebook, or use match.com, we take a risk. There is always the looming possibility that someone, somewhere can track us and find out our information. The government possesses the technology necessary to access our information and read our conversations, but most are comforted by the fact that the government is doing it to protect us, and to ensure that we are patrolling not just airports and post offices, but the cyber universe. What is more troubling than the government having access to this information is others that may also tap into our personal lives. The world of hackers and computer geniuses is rapidly expanding, and what these strangers can do with our information is much more dangerous than the government. But we choose this risk as citizens in the world that we live in to put our lives behind computer screens, and must recognize that just like the real world, the cyber world is not safe.

  5. No, we are never safe when using the Internet. That is why everyone must always be aware and cautious with what they put out there on the Internet. I am not one that is completely against the goverment going through our personal stuff, but I am also not completely for it considering we are supposed to be a “free” country. With freedom comes privacy, but in light of all the terrorism our country is faced with, I supposed a small amount of invasion of privacy is allowed for our safety.

  6. While this is certainly unsettling, it is the truth without a shadow of a doubt. Whether it is spyware, adware, Trojans or any other virus/worm/bug/etc., the computer hackers will always be one step ahead of the ones producing anti-virus/spyware and other related programs. Because of this the ones producing the protective programs always have to react to what the hackers are creating, meaning that there will be times when we are simply unsafe. With all of the hackers out there, the times of being unsafe promise to be very frequent and permanent online safety is a mere figment of our imaginations.

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