Online Security 101: Tips for Protecting Your Privacy from Hackers and Spies

Zack Whittaker has published an article that perhaps should be required reading for everyone before the purchase of their first computers. Whittaker writes:

“Privacy is what sets us apart from the animals. It’s also what sets many countries and citizens apart from dictatorships and despots. People often don’t think about their rights until they need them — whether it’s when they’re arrested at a protest or pulled over for a routine traffic stop.

“Surveillance is also a part of life, and it’s getting progressively more invasive. Government eavesdropping is increasing, carried out in wider secrecy, and it’s becoming far more localized.”

There is a lot more at:

Europe’s Privacy Shield is Trump-proof According to Julie Brill, Former FTC Commissioner

In an article in her law firm’s blog, Julie Brill notes that the recent executive order (EO) from the Oval Office, which expressly limited privacy rights to US citizens only, does not impact the critical agreement between the European Union and the United States. The article lists three reasons:

  1. The Privacy Act applies only to government databases, whereas the Privacy Shield covers corporate databases.
  2. No presidential Executive Order can override existing laws written by Congress – and Congress has already approved the Judicial Redress Act that grants EU citizens the right to use the US courts in the case of misuse of data.
  3. The other mechanism set up to make the Privacy Shield work legally – an Ombudsman that will look into any requests from Europe about access to data by the US government – remains in place.

You can read more in Julie Brill’s article at:

Trump Aides’ Use of Encrypted Messaging May Violate Records Law

While Donald Trump has said that he wants to increase electronic surveillance of American citizens’ and non-citizens’ electronic communications, the new administration is making sure that no one can intercept their messages amongst themselves by using Signal, a free end-to-end encrypted messaging app.

Senior Trump administration aides communicating over encrypted messaging apps may be violating federal record-keeping laws. The Presidential Records Act requires staff to keep records of those conversations. By using Signal, all records are encrypted, then later deleted.

It’s not just in the White House. Aides close to the New York governor and the mayor and Obama administration staff also use the encrypted messaging app.

You can read more in an article by Zack Whittaker at

Encrypt the Vote

secretballotThe news services are full of stories about voter fraud these days. Maybe Russian hackers influenced the vote tallies. Or maybe they didn’t. Maybe votes were cast by deceased registered voters. Or maybe not. Maybe someone tampered with electronic voting machines. Or maybe not. Whatever the truth, one relatively simple proposal promises to avoid the problems in the future. It will use encryption to verify every vote and to provide irrefutable proof of who cast each vote.

“Recounts don’t actually happen, because if you can’t bring a shred of evidence to the table that something went wrong, you sound like a lunatic,” said computer scientist Ben Adida. “That’s what 2016 proves. We need to build a voting system that inherently provides that evidence in case something goes wrong.”

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Pompeo Confirmed as Head of the CIA Head, Raising Surveillance and Privacy Concerns

The new head of the CIA believes the agency should even expand its present capabilities to monitor the online and offline activities all US and foreign citizens.


Mike Pompeo will lead the Central Intelligence Agency, after the US Senate confirmed his nomination Monday evening in a vote of 66 to 32. Pompeo has supported rolling back reforms on US surveillance practices that were put in place after Edward Snowden’s leaked NSA documents revealed spy programs that caught up US residents. At his confirmation hearing, Pompeo also said he wanted to track information from social media accounts.

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Donald Trump’s Stance on Encryption, Privacy, and Surveillance

Digital privacy advocates and civil liberty groups are preparing for the worst under a Trump administration. Trump will arrive at the White House at a time when mass surveillance and hacking by the U.S. government is more expansive and unchecked then ever. The FBI under the Trump administration will be able to hack into the computers of hundreds of thousands of innocent Americans with a single warrant, due to the amendments to Rule 41 that went into effect Dec. 1. Trump also has sent numerous tweets admiring the NSA’s spying powers, the NSA monitoring the phone calls of world leaders, and has expressed admiration for the capabilities of several autocratic foreign governments who spy on their own citizens extensively.

You can read the details in an article in The Daily Dot at

Encryption Backdoor Sneaks Into UK Law

There has been lots of discussion about the wisdom or lack of wisdom of incorporating “back doors” into devices capable of encrypting information. While the debate rages on, the U.K.’s Investigatory Powers Act that was quietly signed into law this week even though it contains the capability to undermine encryption and demand surveillance backdoors.

According to an article in The Register, any company that receives a “technical capacity notice” will be obliged to do various things on demand for government snoops — such as disclosing details of any system upgrades and removing “electronic protection” on encrypted communications. Thus, by “technical capability,” the government really means backdoors and deliberate security weaknesses so citizens’ encrypted online activities can be intercepted, deciphered and monitored…

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