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Volume 29, Issue 5

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Tuesday, 29 October 2013 14:56

Electronic Privacy? There's No Such Thing

Computerworld — Most people suffer from the delusion of privacy. They think it can be guaranteed somehow for their various electronic gadgets. But that is a delusion, and sadly even many in the information security field don't know it. Still, it's surprising how strong the desire to believe otherwise is, and how tech companies will sometimes try to feed that illusion.

Take the news that the encryption in Apple's iMessage can potentially be cracked. I was surprised, but not because the encryption could be cracked. That's a given, no matter the encryption algorithm. I was surprised because I didn't know that iMessage used point-to-point encryption. I just assumed that Apple could always read my messages. Call me uninformed for having missed that news, but what I think is that I was actually better informed than those people who saw Apple's promise that it couldn't decrypt iMessage traffic and let the delusion of privacy lull them into thinking that was really true. Believe me, we'd all be better off if we just acted on the theory that there is likely to be a back door every time.

Don't get me wrong. The fact that iMessage uses encryption is refreshing. Such encryption will do a lot to protect most of us in most of what we do (but more on that later). What is not refreshing is that Apple at best implied and at worst misrepresented that its encryption was uncrackable. Any computer professional in this day and age who thinks that any form of electronic communications is completely secure really doesn't know his profession.