Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Internet privacy webcast: Gmail users beware

Yesterday the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard had a very interesting lunchtime webcast with Christopher Soghoian on the topic Caught in the Cloud: Privacy, Encryption, and Government Back Doors in the Web 2.0 Era. Mr. Soghoian, a Berkman Center fellow, spoke for over an hour about internet privacy, especially the privacy of all sorts of personal information.  The vast majority of Internet users still transmit their own personal information over networks without any form of encryption and the rapid shift to cloud computing exposes end-users to an increased risk of privacy invasion and fraud by hackers. He argued that this increased risk is primarily a result of cost-motivated design decisions on the part of the cloud providers (he especially pointed the finger at Google), who have repeatedly opted to forgo strong security solutions already in widespread use by other Internet services. 
If you would like to see the webcast it is available as video and/or audio on the Berkman website
If you don't have the time or inclination to view the whole webcast, here's one important tip Mr. Soghoian gave to anyone who uses Google's gmail:  Go into your Gmail account. Click on "Settings".  Scroll down to the bottom of the page.  In the box that says "Browser connection" click "Always use https" ; https is a secure protocol that provides authenticated and encrypted communication.  
Mr. Soghoian argued that Google should automatically make all Gmail secure, but that they don't because it's expensive for them to do so. 

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