Cryptography

The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Tag: technology Page 1 of 3

No, the Fact I Don't Want You To Read My Texts Doesn't Mean I'm Obviously Breaking The Law

They want the right to be ignored by the people who they see as being “in their business.” Teens are not particularly concerned about organizational actors; rather, they wish to avoid paternalistic adults who use safety and protection as an excuse to monitor their everyday sociality. (Boyd, 56)

This chapter, and in particular this section, reminded me of a disagreement I've had with my parents time and time again - If I've got nothing to hide, then I should have nothing to fear, and therefore my parents should be allowed to access my digital communications without me protesting.

Parents often assume that if teens are being secretive, it means they're doing something illicit, and by monitoring communications, they are protecting their child from harm. Sure, it's true that teens do things that break house or school rules, or even laws, but if that's the case, it would make sense that they would use forms of communication that minimize the chance of later incrimination, meaning their messages would still be difficult to access even if their phone was confiscated. And of course, many teens are innocent in all these respects, and yet still want to maintain their privacy.

Kids (usually) don't want to keep their texts secret out of fear of punishment for illicit activities from their families, schools, or governments. As Boyd mentions throughout the chapter, it's simply because there's a certain level of privacy expected from what is essentially the digital form of a private conversation. Even if it takes place on social media- such as a comments section of a post - its still considered to be the equivalent of a private space, in which only certain members are allowed. If you had a group of friends over in one room, it would be considered rude for someone to eavesdrop on your conversation even if they can technically access that space or a space adjacent to it.

This leads me to the second flaw in many parents logic - when a parents reads their child's texts, or looks through their social media interactions, they aren't invading just their own child's privacy. My parents, for example, often argued that as my parents, they were entitled to the right to invade my privacy. However, by looking at my texts without my permission, they are also invading the privacy of the other party in the conversation. Even if the information being shared isn't illicit or even that sensitive, it's awkward and socially odd for someone to have knowledge of the private conversations of people they only indirectly know. The discomfort in these situations doesn't arise from fear of punishment - rather, it's the fuzzy boundaries and awkward relationships that can result from such surveillance.

The Internet Broke Us

I believe that given the time he has written this in, Simon Singh has done an excellent job of predicting how the upturn of technology would shift our society and our world towards one of automatic work and technical organization.

It turns out that Singh largely underestimated the rate at which all of this would develop. Technology raced through a lot of the aspects Singh talked about and has moved on to greater things. While we haven't reached certain aspects that Singh explicitly talks about, such as online voting, the Internet has been used to expand our knowledge as well as our capabilities of running and existing in society. Today, we largely consider technology and the Internet to have taken over the world we know today. Although whether it was better or for worse is up in the air for discussion, we can all agree that it has made a sizable impact on who we are as human beings and what we prioritize. That being said, with so much accessible to us in recent days, strong encryption becomes even more critical in regards to our own security as well as the security for everyone else at large. Keeping what we want private as secure as we can make it keeps our mindset and morale high and positive, while being as secure as possible.

Electronic Everything, Except...

It's almost comical to read Singh's prediction, considering the digital world we live in today. He predicts that "electronic mail will soon become more popular than conventional mail," and that governments will use the internet to help run their countries. These statements have long been true. In fact, I can't remember the last time I sent someone a letter that wasn't my mom forcing me to send thank-you cards after my 13th birthday party.

Almost every action we perform using the internet nowadays uses a code. Every time we log-in to a site, our credentials are protected through encryption. In many cases, this is lower-stakes, like on social media platforms, gaming websites, etc. However, this encryption can also be extremely crucial: private email, online banking, and health records are all contained online. For actions such as these, it is imperative that our information is well protected. Someone who had access to all the information we store on the internet could easily ruin our lives.

One of Singh's predictions, however, has not yet come true. In the US, at least, online voting has not become a reality. Some states do allow some sorts of online voting, whether it's, or electronic fax or portal, but the majority of voting is done in person at a booth or through absentee ballots. The overarching reason for this is the government's distrust in their own ability to maintain an uninterrupted and honest election. While smaller countries may find it easier to implement electronic voting, the U.S. faces several problems. First, many citizens in the United States are extremely well educated and well versed in computer encryption systems and hacking. The odds of all the top hackers working for the US government is extremely low. Secondly, there is always international interest in our domestic elections. There have been countless stories in the news (Russia, Ukraine) about other countries trying to interfere with our elections. Online voting would make this much easier, as the internet is very much a worldwide network. Containing voting to an old-school system limits the amount of electronic interference that another citizen or country could have.

Reading the news, shopping, sending messages, and so many more simple tasks have been taken over by the internet - it'll be interesting to see if the internet continues to develop and eventually takes over voting as well.

The Cryptographic Needs of the Common Man

It is said that history is written by the winners, but many forget the second part of of that statement, that history is also written about only the powerful and important. The examples of cryptography that survived throughout the ages were those that caused great uproar, such as the beheading of Mary Queen of Scots.

Besides, the common man did not have much need for cryptography before the invention of modern technology. Unless communicating about a potential insurgency plot, most people did not need any form of secret keeping. It was often unnecessary to require a secret address to the nearby woods where their secret stash of gold was buried.

The primary difference between the times then and now, is the amount of information on a person that could be used with malicious intent. Compared to the 16th century, where a person's identity was comprised of a family name, some heirlooms and the land upon which they lived, today every person is a collection of numbers and electronic impulses. Whether it is Social Security, bank account numbers, credit card numbers or even account passwords, today there is every possibility for the threat of theft.

As society continued to advance away from the tyrannical rule of the monarchies that was so well documented in chapter 1, people began to look towards their right to privacy. In the 16th century the only reason to conceal common correspondence was usually an indication that there was something to be concealed in the message. Today however, people use encrypted communication for every day conversations, to ensure their privacy, no matter the message. Electronic communication means that almost any message could be at least intercept, an impossible task with physical messages. The importance of encryption for the common man has grown tenfold.

Can Technology Truly Give a Feeling of Privacy?

In Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, the passage that caught my attention was in Chapter 5 when Marcus talked about how technology made him feel. He said that technology made him feel like he had control, and that technology works for, serves and protects him when it is used the right way. He says the when technology is used right, it could give “power and a sense of privacy”.

I believe that technology has so many good attributes, but with the good there is bad. Even if technology was used in a good way, that does not mean that everyone else would not misuse it. Technology can give a feeling of privacy and protection, but that can be easily violated by hackers or people that mean to do harm. Many people think that they are protected by their technology, and by thinking this they let their guard down. Technology does not work for a single person, it works for anyone who has access to it. While people may think that they are safe and whatever they put online is protected, that is not always the case.

In the beginning of the novel, Marcus abuses his power over technology. He used technology to discover everything there was to know about his vice principal including his social security number, birthday, hometown, and even his mother’s maiden name. Marcus did not use technology in the right way. Even though he wants to use technology for the better, he succumbed to the things he could discover and do with the power of technology. In my opinion, Marcus is very hypocritical. Marcus violated the privacy of his vice principal even though he says that he loves technology because of the feeling of privacy that it gives.

 

The Need to Establish a Common Ground

When the 9/11 attacks occurred on American soil, the government had to respond in a certain manner to ensure the safety of its people. Based off of an argument brought up by Cory Doctorow in his novel Little Brother, I agree that the government first has to protect the safety of all citizens above anything else. Therefore, the government's action to look into previous phone calls and other similar information I believe is justified. While I also advocate for privacy rights, technology has such an affect on globalization that the government would not be able to ensure these terrorists were brought to justice if they did not search through these messages.

However, my concern is: when does this investigation stop? The government can be justified for looking to catch the terrorists and their accomplices, but how do we know that once they are found the government will stop peering on our personal data. The answer is that we don't. It is this sole reason that causes me to deter the allowance of the government to have access to this technological data. At times our rights have to be compromised to ensure our safety, but when will we be certain that we will ever be fully safe again. It is arguments like this that continually give the government justification to continue their investigations through people's private matters.

Therefore, I would grant access to the government for these investigations if I could be assured there would be a set termination to the investigations. For example, if the information could not be found after a few months, then it would be halted. I believe this serves to establish the perfect medium between ensuring privacy rights while also ensuring the safety of the citizens of the United States.

I've Heard it Both Ways

It’s easy to think of privacy and publicity as opposing concepts, and a lot of technology is built on the assumption that you have to choose to be private or public. Yet in practice, both privacy and publicity are blurred.     (danah 76)

As with many of the issues surrounding cryptography, privacy versus publicity is often viewed as a false dichotomy. Both privacy and publicity are relative terms, though. Without a public realm of information with which to compare it, privacy would not exist. The problem with sharing information publicly, though, arises when we must decide what information we wish to keep private. As discussed in this chapter, the fact that teens wish to keep information private does not indicate that they have something to hide; rather, it is an example of them choosing which parts of their lives to keep to themselves.

In a way, making aspects of our lives public can actually increase our privacy relatively. It is possible for teens to hide behind a screen and only post what they want other people to see, not the whole truth. By choosing which aspects of our lives to keep private, we are realizing that just about everything else can be accessed by the general public. It is a trade-off that many choose to make, but in reality is just a consequence of trying to find a balance between privacy and publicity. In an era where private information is becoming increasingly public, we must work to find a happy medium where we can easily communicate with others while still respecting individual decisions on which parts of life they wish to keep private.

Ethical, Unethical, or Both?

I am of the opinion that there are two ways that the question can be looked at. Personal ethics, I think, are different than the ethics of a nation. This is something that must be taken into account when questioning the ethics of decisions surrounding national security; it most certainly must be taken into account when considering the Zimmerman telegram.

From a personal standpoint, this decision is unquestionably unethical. Letting America know the contents of the Zimmerman telegram would have saved American lives, and potentially shortened the length of the war. Although it could be argued that more lives might have been lost if Germany knew that the code had been broken, I vastly disagree. Creating a new and equally strong code for their messages would have taken Germany a long period of time, because creating codes that function and are very strong is not an entirely simple process. Even if Germany became aware that their code had been broken, with the advantage given to both America and Britain, the war may have been won before the new code was invented. It is completely unethical for someone to break a code with the intention of shortening the war, and then not use the broken code to save as many lives as possible.

At the other end of this issue is the standpoint of national ethicality.  It is my opinion that a nations ethics are typically focused first and foremost selfishly, on the survival of that specific nation. It is quite possible that Admiral Hall believed that telling the Americans about the contents of the Zimmerman telegram would jeopardize the very survival of his nation, in which case he simply obeyed his national ethics, which told him that survival came first. In following this duty to his country he also follows another part of national ethicality, that the homeland must come first.

With these two sides to keep in mind, it is impossible for me to conclude that one is more correct than the other. Personally, it is unethical. Nationally, it seems it may have been quite ethical. In the end, this is a murky issue. However, in the tumultuous and interconnected times we live in today, this will be an issue I think we will revisit very soon.

How Much Privacy Will Students Concede?

Data mining is a new, innovative technique that major companies have incorporated into their marketing strategies. This technology uses specific algorithms to identify trends and convert them to usable information, so that the only advertisements that pop up are relevant to your wants and needs. This powerful technology has many more capabilities that could make an impact on the lives of many as Michael Morris explains in his article "Mining Student Data Could Save Lives."

Although mining data could predict future suicidal or homicidal actions of students, people are still hesitant to allow this invasion of privacy because they believe it is not anyone's right to access that information. This debate of security vs. privacy has been going on for a few years now since the technology has become available to us. I plan to write about this article for my paper because I believe that this new technology should be used to prevent tragedies from occurring. Even if it does invade your privacy a little, that should not matter if you have nothing to hide. I feel strongly about this because I believe it can save lives, and we should do everything in our power to save just one life.

The New Normal

In Hello Future Pastebin Readers, Quinn Norton talks about how everyone who has access to technology is essentially the same in that none of their personal information and data, no matter how securely uploaded or downloaded, is actually private. This particularly interests me because today’s society is so heavily centered around the distribution of information globally, and this feeling of interconnectedness provides a false sense of security to many people, because in reality, they can have no idea what other people are possibly doing with their data.

The article also exposes readers to the idea that as we progress towards the more modern and technologically-oriented society, more people will learn how to hack, and the status quo will shift to a society where people must become comfortable knowing that privately posting anything online is the same as posting it to the public. On this topic, Norton furthermore brings up the interesting prospect that we should embrace the idea of performing as if “on stage” whenever we do anything online, which ultimately may help the world move towards a more open society, technologically speaking.

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