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Is Email More Secure Than Text?

May 19, 2017    |    Cyber Security    |    Private Tunnel

Email Vs. Text

Did you know that email is older than the Internet itself? One of the first systems was used by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as early as 1965. Over 60 years later, the technology is still one of the most widely used Internet applications, with over 600 MILLION PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD USING IT.

With social media, chat programs, instant messengers, and text messages available, why are people still using email? Is email more secure than text?

In short, email is still one of the most secure forms of online communication, although who it protects you from largely depends on how far you go to secure your own email. Ultimately the service provider has access to scan and archive your messages, WHETHER SENT VIA TEXT, email, or other routes. Desktop email readers stand out, however, because they allow you to encrypt information on your machine level so even the service provider can’t see your data.

Are Text Messages Secure and Private?

Your text messages are relatively secure from outside hackers, but not from your cell provider or the government. After 9/11 and the Patriot Act, the United States went full-on into mass surveillance. As NSA whistleblower EDWARD SNOWDEN’S LEAKED DOCUMENTS showed, the government bulk monitors all cell phone and Internet communications. It also actively pushes for all software based in the U.S. to have BACKDOORS INSTALLED for them to access as necessary.

When Lavabit CEO Ladar Levison REFUSED TO GIVE UP THE ENCRYPTION KEYS to his customers’ emails (which included Snowden) to the government in 2013, the government was swift to respond, forcing Lavabit to shut down. It wasn’t until three years later in 2016 that tech giant APPLE FINALLY STOOD UP TO GOVERNMENT MONITORING as well, joining Levison in refusing to unlock an iPhone used in a terrorist attack. This case is still held in limbo.

Of course, Internet Service Providers aren’t always as resistant. In 2014 alone, T-MOBILE REPORTED RECEIVING NEARLY 351,940 GOVERNMENT REQUESTS for data, including subpoenas, warrants, and 3,000 wiretap orders. Sprint received 308,937 requests, Verizon received 287,559, and AT&T received 263,755. It adds up to over one million requests per year just for cell phone records.

This means if you transmit sensitive or private data in your text messages, security just isn’t sufficient — because cell providers are usually happy to provide your information to the government. And you don’t need to be a criminal to feel uneasy about this.

Securing Communications

Like texts, modern email services like Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo are secured, but they’re also monitored. Google will protect your information from anyone except Google, and sometimes the government. Keep in mind that Google is ultimately a marketing company that tracks your data to sell it to companies — so this isn’t an ideal situation.

How to Encrypt Email

If you know how to encrypt email, however, you can secure your emails at a device level. All it takes is a desktop email app (like Mozilla’s Thunderbird) with a PGP extension installed. These programs allow you to create a private key, as well as a public one that can be shared with others, to be able to decrypt your email communications. When doing this, if the government got the keys to your email from Google, they’d decrypt it only to see another layer of encryption.

To raise your protection, only transmit PGP-encrypted emails through a VPN server that tunnels past even your ISP to help mask the sender and recipient. You can take a few extra steps if you’re really paranoid by having a script split your emails into pieces scattered onto forums. This makes it virtually impossible to track your communications without physically being in the room with you.

The only way to remotely monitor such communications would be to install a keylogger on the local machine (something MICROSOFT INCLUDED AS A DEFAULT OPTION IN WINDOWS 10). Of course, with a VPN, it’ll be hard for anyone to identify your machine to install a keylogger in the first place. The more layers of security you stack up, the harder it is to monitor you, and the less likely it is to happen.

Just don’t forget that you’re never 100% secure – even with all this in place, it’s always possible for someone to break in. Technology is constantly evolving, and keeping up with trends can arm you with the knowledge to stay protected.

And if you need to talk to someone about it, be sure to do it in an email. Because your texts, phone calls, and other Internet traffic are all being monitored, whether you like it or not.

 

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