This is a complicated issue that involves courtroom drama, international intrigue, and could perhaps touch the lives of every smartphone owner or computer user around the world. Privacy and security from government intervention or from hackers, criminals, and terrorists should be a personal right, but in many places it is not. Why isn’t privacy and security simple?
Life Is Complicated
Early this week I read a lengthy (which means multiple pages, and 10 times as many ads to view as a single page) treatise on how to secure your computer and online accounts. In 10 Simple Steps. Therein lies a major problem toward the objective of privacy and security.
If the methodology to achieve simple privacy and security has 10 steps then it’s not simple. It’s that simple. Here’s a quick summation from a Mac user’s perspective.
- Passwords & Manager – Use a strong password and a password manager.
- Remove Bloatware – This applies mostly to owners of Windows PCs.
- Two-factor Authentication – Many only accounts support two-factor but it’s a more complex setup fraught with speed bumps.
- Enable Full-disk Encryption – Your Mac has this built-in with File Vault. You just need to turn it on. And take the afternoon off.
- Use HTTPS – Think of this option as a padlock to every site you visit. But it doesn’t work everywhere.
- Uninstall Java and Flash – Java and Flash have been security risks on Macs and Windows PCs for years. Not much has changed. Do without both and your device is more secure.
- Use Tor to Browse Anonymously – Tor came from The Onion Router and basically is a free, worldwide, volunteer network that allows you to browser the web anonymously. And slowly.
- Update Your Mac – This applies to Windows PCs, too, of course, but it also ensures you’re running the latest security options.
- Use an Ad Blocker – Why? Ads track you online and the amount of tracking going on is scary. Of course, most websites survive on advertising so if you use an ad blocker to speed up website page downloads use Ghostery. And whitelist Mac360.
- Use a VPN for Public Wi-Fi – See how privacy and security gets complicated? That means you’ll need a VPN app on your Mac or iPhone or iPad (works on Windows PCs, too) just to use the Wi-Fi at the mall, or a store, or a restaurant, just to be more secure.
See? Privacy and security is not simple. Apple builds a few layers of security into OS X and iOS so that customers can retain more privacy and gain a measure of individual security, yet it’s the government– whose job it is to help secure citizens– that would take that privacy and security away, and do so in the name of security.
Even the legal issues are not simple. In Apple’s case, at least in two cases so far, the F.B.I. has used the All Writs Act from 1789 to force courts to compel Apple to to do anything the government wants. So far, it’s Apple over the F.B.I. 1-0 but the game isn’t over.
If you want privacy, security, and have it simple, it might be better to forego electricity.