CTemplar secure email ARTICLE

Who Could Be Spying on You Right Now and Why CTemplar Can Stop Them?

A few days ago I had a conversation with a friend on whether or not someone would spy on you on the Internet or via your cell phone. Admittedly, the argument was fueled by a few drinks and we didn’t really get far off the starting point, but it’s something that I think is worth diving into, so here are my two cents on this.

Now, when you hear someone say “spying”, this might evoke pictures of the Cold War between the USA and USSR. That’s for a good reason. You see, while spying did exist in since ancient times (the Roman Frumentarii come to mind), spying or military intelligence typically played second fiddle to battlefield tactics and diplomacy (although this was often closely connected with spying), it was during the Cold War that spying your enemies really became a “thing”. I guess this had to do with the fact that you had two nuclear powers, with neither wanting to engage the other openly.

Why do I mention the Cold War? Because what we know today as “corporate spying” or “government spying” has deep roots in “the Five Eyes”, an intelligence alliance consisting of the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, who worked together in a program called ECHELON  to gather intelligence (read spy) on the Soviet Union.

The Cold War ended with the fall of the USSR in 1991, leaving the intelligence agencies of the Five Eyes without their main adversary. You’d think that would be it and that they would pack up, but no.

They just switched their focus to other targets. Namely their own citizens.

 How Your Government Might be Spying on You?

Okay, this is the part when you say I’m paranoid and where I say, hold on, let me make my argument. If your reasoning (and I hear this a lot) goes along the lines of “I don’t know anything they would be interested in”, you might reconsider that.

Because government surveillance is well documented, largely thanks to one man, Edward Snowden. Remember him? He’s that ex-CIA employee who leaked classified information from the NSA back in 2013. Well, he didn’t stop there and he keeps warning us about the various cases where the government is misusing its power to spy on its citizens.

One such that comes to mind and that’s been reported by Reuters was how the US intelligence ordered Yahoo to scan hundreds of millions of accounts in 2016. For this purpose, Yahoo even developed custom software that would allow them to search emails for a certain type of information.

If Not the Government, Then the Corporates are Spying on You

Okay, let’s say the government really isn’t spying on you, or they found that you hold no real interest to them. That doesn’t mean someone else isn’t. Who I mean by that are corporations.

Recently, for instance, it was discovered by the Wall Street Journal, that app developers have scanned hundreds of millions of Gmail accounts. The issue here lies within Gmail access settings, which allow app developers and data brokers to see your entire email correspondence, who you’re sending emails to (so recipient addresses) and more.

Now, granted, Google does say that these can be used only in very specific circumstances and only if you give consent, but that’s where the lines often get blurred. Because consent is often assumed and therefore not freely given. At least that’s the case in the US (in EU it’s a different case and you have to be very clear thanks to GDPR).

Furthermore, there is no evidence that anyone (developers included) are actually misusing this data. However, this does open the door for potential attacks by hackers. For example, in 2017 Google itself reported that one million Gmail users (mostly journalists) were victims of a phishing attack. They were sent emails containing supposed Google Docs documents that, if opened, allowed the attacker to gain access to user contacts and information. Fortunately, Google quickly responded and removed the accounts in question.

The Spy in Your Pocket

Okay, so hopefully you’re taking this seriously and are extra careful with which emails you open and which you don’t and who you allow access to your Gmail and who you don’t. That’s good, but you’re not safe just yet.

Because your cell phone, tablet, iPad, laptop or smartwatch could also be spying on you. All you have to do is to install Facebook, Viber, Snapchat or any other app like that and that app could:

  • Access your camera (both front and back)
  • Record a video or take a photo without telling you
  • Upload videos and photos without informing you
  • Run face recognition software when you’re using the device
  • And more

I don’t know about you, but to me, that’s a pretty blatant breach of privacy.

But is there anything you can do about it?

There sure is.

How to Protect Your Privacy?

The best way to protect your privacy is through encryption. There are two ways to do this.

The first is end-to-end encryption. Here, the information (let’s say it’s an email) is encrypted before you send it and it stays encrypted until it reaches the specified recipient, which holds the decryption key. Thus, anyone intercepting or eavesdropping cannot decrypt the message.

The other form of encryption is public key cryptography. This includes two paired keys, a private and a public one. When you send an email, it is locked with the public key. The only way the recipient can unlock it is if they have a private key.

We all want a little privacy and don’t want our private and sensitive information to fall into the wrong hands. Whether that includes your clients, business partners, boss, spouse, friends or someone else, we want that information secure. CTemplar gives you the way to do this by using end-to-end encryption, allowing only you, the sender and the recipient to be privy to and decode your emails.

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