Yesterday, three major news organizations published Edward Snowden's latest leak. The New York Times, The Guardian, and ProPublica all made the decision to let the public know that the U.S. Government has been tapping into SSL and HTTPS encrypted sites for ten long years. This, of course, shocked the public. But, there's a bigger story here.
The director of the NSA issued a public statement in regards to Snowden's latest leaked documents. In that statement, he insists that letting the public know about such espionage initiatives is a really bad idea - but not for the reasons that you may think.
According to the NSA, details of what the U.S. Government is capable of should be kept under wraps. Otherwise, U.S. adversaries can gain this information, and that, in turn, would put the U.S. at risk for various attacks. Those that made the decisions to publish Snowden's latest leak stand behind that choice. This is a fight between the people and the government, it seems.
That fight is still brewing, but one additional question raised by all of this is: what can you do now to ensure that your information is safe?
Securing Your Details and Data
If SSL and HTTPS encrypted sites can be easily hacked into - and, by the way, most bank sites rely on this type of encryption - is your data ever safe? That's a tough call, but Snowden himself has told press that the best form of encryption is cryptography. In other words, keep solving letters and puzzles in order to gain access to accounts - or lock up your files with a cryptographic security feature.
What about your information that's currently stored behind a SSL or HTTPS encryption? Well, you probably don't have too much cause for concern - yet. The likelihood that the U.S. Government is reading through your bank statements is low. The bigger concern is that hackers may soon gather all the information needed to understand how to get into SSL and HTTPs encrypted sites - just due to the leaked file specifications.
An Unsafe Internet
I'm going to reiterate the importance of using an encryption tool before storing any files in the cloud or sending out any sensitive emails - heck, skip the emails and meet in-person if details are that sensitive. Is your information safe? Probably. Is it as safe as you think it is? Decidedly not.
The internet is quickly becoming an uncertain place. Just as we thought all information about the NSA had been leaked, more details pour out. In addition, we discover that those details aren't necessarily the scariest part, and that we may be setting ourselves up for disaster by making government espionage secrets well-known.
Sure, it's important for the public to know what's happening inside of a particular country, but at what cost? Time will tell whether or not hackers will start using leaked espionage details. For now, though, it's best to go to every last possible measure in order to make sure that your files are truly safe.
Photo from ifindkarma via Flickr Creative Commons