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Net Neutrality itself might kill our online privacy

05 Jan 2015

In recent weeks, there have been advances in the USA towards providing legislation towards net neutrality, essentially ensuring that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) treat all online traffic equally, despite reports on Monday that Republicans plan to quash these rules in the US Senate.

Net Neutrality, in the truest sense of the matter, however expands further than what the US government, Republican or otherwise would have you believe. Net Neutrality is all about ensuring the right to free speech reigns supreme on the Internet and that no one government or corporation can exert total control over it’s usage. After all, the developed world has generally grown up with an Internet which supports free speech in all it’s digital guises and all that comes with it, good and bad. 

The latest leak from Eric Snowden, published via German magazine Der Spiegel outlines the tools of Internet privacy, that the NSA most wanted to crack in order to intercept and decrypt communications, rendering yet more popular methods of sharing or storing information anonymously effectively useless. 

Included in the tools that the USA’s National Security Agency’s cryptographic “most wanted” list in 2012, when Snowden acquired the information, were the popular open source based Internet traffic anonymising tool, Tor (The Onion Router). Also the Linux-based anonymising distribution tails (a live Linux distribution which works on a basis of permanent ‘amnesia’), as well as full disk encryption system, TrueCrypt which was used by millions of users worldwide to encrypt their data on Windows, Mac and Unix systems. 

After 10 years, TrueCrypt specifically, ended production in May 2014, with the authors citing that they would no longer maintain the software and that it may contain unfixed security issues. Since then, flaws have been uncovered in Tor, which reveals users, as well as a vulnerability in Tails that would allow those with the correct skills the ability to ascertain the users’ IP address. 2014 has also been the year of the heartbleed and other non-trivial SSL based security flaws which would play into the hands of the NSA.

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