“If you bother locking your doors at night, you should use encryption”, says Quincy Larson of FreeCodeCamp. Earlier this week Quincy Larson wrote an article on Medium called “How to Encrypt Your Life in Less Than an Hour”, in which he provides a guide that is accessible to technology laypersons for encrypting their most valuable data. We need more articles like this to spread the why and the how of encryption for the average person.
Fundamentally encryption is all about mathematics, and for most people, mathematics is not a topic that gets a lot of attention voluntarily. I think this partly explains why, even after Snowden revealed that everyone is under mass surveillance, there has not been a popular movement toward encryption. Most people do not understand how encryption works, and may not even believe that it can protect them.
Encryption works. Properly implemented strong crypto systems are one of the few things that you can rely on.- Edward Snowden
Yet even when people believe in encryption, they rarely use it. It is all about convenience and ease of use. A famous study by UC Berkeley and Carnegie Mellon showed that encryption tools like PGP were simply too hard for the average user. Privacy, it seems, is not worth any inconvenience in an era when people are divulging huge amounts of information about themselves to the general public through Facebook and other social media.
“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” seems to be the popular refrain. Perhaps that is because, despite many reports of people being fired or jailed for Facebook posts, the average person still does not understand how valuable information about them can be. The fact is that everyone has something to hide. They just may not be aware of it at the time.
The Internet does not forget. – Me, just now, in this blog.
The things you write and say can and will come back to haunt you. I try to tell my daughter that every week while she’s ignoring me on her iPhone. Quotes can be taken out of context. Popular sentiment is subject to change. Things you were saying in private may be public after all. You need to look no further than the recent Presidential election to see what unintended consequences look like.
Encryption. Do it.