Sunday, December 29, 2013

A 'treasonous' act bears fruit

Snowden is more-or-less branded a traitor by the White House, but libertarians everywhere call him a hero. I don't know how I feel about him and his disclosures. First, because while it's nice to finally see fairly reliable evidence of government surveillance, all of this was assumed, if not known, for a very long time. Most people I know have discussed NSA activities for years, even making jokes on the phone that "the NSA is listening." Hollywood movies have been made about this topic. And yet, when Snowden went on the run and his dox kept landing in the media, the population of the world acted shocked. Could they have been so uninformed? Sadly, the answer is probably "Yes!".

The second reason I don't know how I feel about Snowden and the info-dump is that the secrets he's revealing are state secrets -- my state, and I'm generally against anything that weakens my country. Hence, my cunundrum. In government there has always been a balance between security and liberty, and even though I usually despise people want to harm the USA, I prefer the pendulum to swing to the side of liberty. It's a real bitch of an issue for me.

Regardless of where I or anyone else comes out on the Snowden situation, it has born fruit, and some of it is good. Case in point, a new effort to audit TrueCrypt and even parts of Windows. It seems a lot of people want to know how secure our software really is, and they're putting their money and time and talent where their mouths are. Details here.

A few years ago I installed TrueCrypt on my primary partition on one of my laptops, just to see what's up. It's everything they say it is -- easy to use and fast. People also say it's unbreakable, but how do we really know that? It has been speculated for a long time (decades) that the NSA has backdoors or some method of breaking any encryption scheme available to the public. Maybe now we can finally learn the truth of this. Then again, putting on the Hat of Conspiracy, maybe the people driving the work to audit TrueCrypt are secretly on the payroll of the NSA? I'm sure the people doing the work would be upset to hear that, but I think it's a legitimate question.

As much as I enjoyed having "unbreakable" encryption for my data, I uninstalled TrueCrypt for a simple reason: I don't do anything illegal with my computers (nor in my private life). People who knew me 20 years ago would probably scoff at that, but things (and people) change... I didn't see the point of encrypting my unimaginative collection of short stories or aborted attempts at novels or my collection of WWII battle photography. If the NSA wants to enter my computer and steal one of my novels and finish it, making it a bestseller and funding their next round of blackops, I'm OK with that!!!!!

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