Thinking about Security: the Cost of Doing Business Online

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The recent show-down between the FBI and Apple over the encryption built
into iPhones may be fading into the annals of history, but it does bring
to light an important issue we face with regard to the websites we use
every day.

Every time we do some online shopping, or check our
Gmail/Yahoo/Hotmail/Office365 accounts, we’re using cryptographic
technology that’s designed to keep our personal information personal and
our private communications private.

There was a story not too long ago (2013) about a company called Lavabit
that was approached by the US government, in a case somewhat similar to
the recent Apple lawsuit. They were asked (read: ordered) to hand over
their private Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) keys in the investigation
regarding Edward Snowden’s leaked information on government
surveillance. The company did what they could to comply with the
requests, but in the end, decided to close the business rather than put
all 400,000 of their customers’ secure data at risk.

As we move further and further down the road towards an
‘encrypt-everything’ ideology with regard to our web/email/social media
communications, I can only think that these types of issues are going to
become much more common, and hopefully get the attention of our best and
brightest technologists and lawmakers. There are strong arguments on all
sides of the issue, and it’s going to be interesting to see which way
things go in the end.

Apple may be the ones currently in the spotlight, but I think by the
very nature of the issue, everyone in the business of making business
happen online will have to take a hard look at privacy and security
concerns moving forward.

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