A Question of Encryption

For centuries, man has created codes to keep their secrets and for nearly  the same time others have attempted to break those codes to discover the secrets.  Over the years encryption has been at the heart of wars, politics and virtually all aspects of human history.  It has shaped the course of human history in important ways – some obvious and well documented as the battles to defeat the enigma codes in the second world war to the myriad number of international incidents enabled or protected because of cryptography.

Today encryption is arguably more important as the only feasible method of protecting our digital lives.  Securing the internet, protecting our emails and even protecting the machines we use to take cash out of the wall. Encryption and the privacy it provides protects and underpins our entire digital infrastructure.

It is an important issue and an emotive one, which is why when Government’s suggest that they should perhaps be entitled to ‘back doors’ to encryption that people feel so uncomfortable.   Not only is it a tool to protect our infrastructure it is also the only way we have to protect our personal privacy online.

Which is why so many people use a VPN (Virtual Private Networks) when they use the internet.  Without the encryption provided by these digital tunnels pretty much everything you do or say online flies across shared servers and hardware in clear, readable text.  The provide security and protection to the ordinary person who just doesn’t want their every movement logged, tracked and monitored.  So this is a problem to many – the issue is straight forward – using a proxy for Netflix yet the potential issues far reaching.

What at first seems like a genuine attempt to protect a specific service – i.e. Netflix restricting users to the service in their physical location, suggest some bigger problems. The media giant has basically enforced a rule that you cannot use the only viable privacy protection online to use their service. It is in effect a block on privacy applied through restricting VPNs. Of course they can argue that you can turn it back on after you leave a site yet we all know that’s unlikely to happen – even the inconvenience will see to that. The problems is that this is likely to spread as more and more companies and organisations see the control they can enforce.

The problem is that prior to the Netflix block, most of these filters were relatively easy to bypass however this is not the case with their method. It involves blocking commercial IP addresses and the reality means that you will need a residential based VPN in order to access these services in future. Unfortunately these are expensive and all this does is drive the price up excluding huge numbers because it of a prohibitive price. Effectively you can have privacy and security online but only if you can afford it.

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