An introduction series to data privacy and security

The last year or so I have to a large degree migrated most of my data over to external hosting such as Google Mail, Calendar, Wave, Contacts and Docs. My day to day work items go in a Dropbox folder allowing easy synchronization, backup and basic revision control. Some of my programming projects are hosted on Github and Bitbucket, and my website is hosted at Dreamhost.

All these services have given me a workflow in my day to day life that is wonderful. My email is pushed to my Android phone the moment it arrives in my Gmail, my contacts synchronize automatically between all my devices, my friend’s birthdays are delivered straight to my phone from Facebook, and basically I don’t have to do jack to get it to work.

I’ve been interested in matters of free software, privacy, freedom of speech etc. for a long time, but see myself as a pragmatic guy, and have done a very conscious choice choosing convenience over privacy lately. For now I have now data that I’m all that afraid of anyone seing, so convenience has been well worth it.

Just recently however I read Cory Doctorow’s youth novel ‘Little Brother’. It was a great book, and I read it cover to cover in two sittings. The book brings up a lot of very interesting - and serious - issues that I believe most people use way to little time thinking about. These issues are wrapped in an entertaining story and as rarely seen in entertainment - very realistic depictions of technology.

‘Little Brother’ really sparked my interest in privacy and security again, and when I read about the American government illegally conducting espionage targeting Norwegian citizens I just couldn’t resist writing up some posts on the subject.

Over my next few blog posts I want to create a series of informational posts about some simple but important concepts of personal privacy and security measures anyone can start using. Such measures are of interest both in an idealogical perspective, as well as securing your data from possible threats such as a laptop or cell phone theft, network sniffing or people trying to break in to your computer. I also want to touch on the subject of open data formats and why that is a good thing.

Many of these subjects are widely discussed and described on the internet, but few articles seems to describe, what, why and how together and in a simple and understandable manner. That will be my goal in this series, and currently my plans for the topics are:

  1. Securing and making your messages trustworthy Taking a look at private/public key par encryption using OpenPGP

  2. Securing your data to prevent theft and snooping. Looking at various ways to encrypt data, including full drive and block file schemes and some insights into nested encryption layers and what they can accomplish.

  3. Things you should know about using internet in the public. How people sniff your traffic and what you should think about when you surf the net, including topics such as SSL, open wireless networks and password, cookie and information sniffing.

  4. Considerations you should have in mind when writing your documents and storing your media files. Proprietary vs open data formats, programs and digital rights management schemes on video and music.