It is 4:38 AM on Saturday morning. It is completely dark outside with the only a one inch light out on the ocean as the cruise ship heading for San Francisco passed by. We’re in the middle of a storm and I can hear the wind rushing through the trees.
I made it to the gym twice this week but I missed karate last weekend due to a cold. I’m getting back into my morning and general fitness routine and it feels good.
As I mentioned in my previous entry my mind has been all over the place and I’ve not been able to relax. I had a couple important renewals at work, I had to get the taxes done, there are a couple of big billed needed to be paid, trips that needed to be booked and many other activities to be accomplished.
I’m always happiest when everything is in order, there is nothing outstanding and I have a bit of time to think. Sitting here on a very dark Saturday morning I’m glad to say that I’m done with everything. Taxes paid, trips booked, most renewals renewed (or at least in final stages) and my inbox for perhaps only the second time in my career, completely empty.
There is one final thing however that is in process. I mentioned a post or two about the importance of backups, which forever remains true, but there is one other of equal importance that I have so far neglected: encryption. There has been a crime spree of break-ins here and in the surrounding cities with the max being four home break-ins in one day! This got me thinking about the importance of my own data and how I’d be devastated if someone smashed their way into my house and took my drives.
I’ve used VeraCrypt on external hard drives before but not on drives that I use daily. Well, that changed yesterday as I began the process of encrypting everything. I encrypted my Galaxy S6 which shows no degradation in performance at all contrary to what some others have said; I am encrypting my data drive on the computer; and the final item that took some study but am still a little unclear on is encrypting my external hard drive attached to my server. Encrypting entire drives (leaving data in place while encrypting) takes a while so my data drive is still in process but once that finishes I’ll start on the external, server side HD. I’ll encrypt that entire drive too and am assuming that it will ask for the password when I mount it but we’ll see. I couldn’t find much specific information about that and got confused when some developers started to talk about encrypted containers being accessed over the network.
Anyway, just like backups I’ve just been forced to realize the importance of encryption, encryption, encryption. Some sleezeball thief having my unencrypted data freaks me out so encrypting everything will give me peace of mind and really is just good practice.
In the course of my studies and the importance of protecting data I also came across stories of U.S. Customs demanding your mobile phone so they can analyze your contacts/social media and files using their secret software which does things that are not public information. I also learned that you’d better comply immediately or things could go very badly for you. Now, I realize there are some very bad people out there and this is something U.S agencies should be able to and have the right to do on a very selective basis. But I’m also very aware that we’re well down the path of being a permanently surveilled society just like in the book 1984.
Backing up a bit, it was 2004 and I was landing in Ho Chi Minh City on the first day of my new life in Vietnam. I thought about how this was a Communist country and about the rumor that the government kept a manilla file on every single foreigner that entered the country. I thought about how this is something only Communists would do since I had been brainwashed about Communism by my own country for most of my life. I was glad that my country, the USA protected freedoms of their citizens and didn’t engage in such “communist” activities.
Well, then Snowden happened and I learned not only that the USA does snoop on its own citizens but that it is one million times worse! Just like our data safety training in the corporation which tells us that we “shouldn’t have an expectation of privacy when surfing the web/using computer networks and data at work,” well, one also shouldn’t have an expectation of privacy when using the internet and being a US citizen either!
The nationwide discussion on privacy has been raging for a while but I’ll tell you how it will end. The intelligence agencies will win one way or another. People should have no expectation of privacy at all. Technology will advance and there will be new apps/programs which give the users a feeling of privacy but intelligence agencies worldwide will always have the better software and ways to circumvent.
I don’t want to get into the rights/wrongs/reasons of the privacy issue and limits of government snooping, I just want to state that a ‘right to privacy’ no longer exists, de-facto.
It is also a fact that it is human nature that we are flawed. No matter the laws, safeguards and software put in place, abuse will occur. So when the government says “trust us” you know how that turns out given its past record throughout the course of human history.
Coming back to mobile phones, the more pressing matter is that if the US really steps up its analysis of mobile phones when entering the country, other countries will do the same. When the US started to capture everyone’s picture – which caused a lot of outrage and now seems normal – other countries did the same. So, it won’t be just the USA getting all your data, but other countries will want all the data on your phone as well! And the way things are headed under the Trump administration I can see a future where the mobile phone of every single person entering the USA is analyzed and most other countries do the same.
So what would be the solution? It would have to be something like a phone with no data on it at all – everything, even contacts stored on the cloud. But then how could one access it without also letting Customs access it as well but still being allowed to pass?
All this is very interesting and it is a certainty that the future is going to look very different twenty years from now just like 1997 looks so different for us here in 2017.
Well, this blog post went a very interesting direction! It is now 5:29 AM and I feel like surfing a bit of the web.
But before I go another thought popped in my head and it is of internet/social network and general technology fatigue. I remember back in the “Mac labs” at Ohio State in 1996 how exciting it was to “surf the web.” I miss that feeling of newness, of excitement, of discovery and of interconnectedness the internet brought! I not only no longer have good feelings on the internet but it turns out to bring me down a bit!
I need to change my mindset and realize again how amazing all of this is. I’ve accomplished this a little by getting excited about encryption and the peace of mind it will bring but I also need to get out of the normal Facebook, Instagram, usual website rut. The internet is a vast and amazing place and I need to discover some new and exciting lands. Virtual Reality did bring this excitement but I can only get a high in 20 minute increments as my S6 overheads in that amount of time or less. :-/