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Revelations in Data Security: Is Anything Ever Safe?

Revelations in Data Security

Data breaches are becoming more and more frequent - as well as increasingly severe--putting more information at risk to more and more people. Between the credit card breach at Target over the holiday season, right up to the recent and overwhelming Ebay debacle, this problem is not going anywhere - and if trends are any indication, it is only going to get worse.

So what is the problem? Is there a bunch of groups of hackers sitting in basements all over the world living off coffee constantly trying to crack data encryption? There very well may be true - but that is far from the real, and much larger problem.

While neither condoning nor demonizing the actions of Edward Snowden (this would require a much longer narrative), there is one thing that is true beyond a reasonable doubt: the information he leaked was very real. Part of this information may shed some light onto why people all over the world are losing their financial and personal information to pirates.

One of the major revelations Mr. Snowden informed the world about is an NSA-backed program that exists with the sole purpose of seemingly subversively ensuring that data can only be encrypted to a certain extent. The NSA - whether in conjunction with major digital providers or not - has gotten into the business of actually making data easier to access, rather than protecting it.

All encryption is essentially based on algorithms that must be broken in order to obtain data. As outlined in Mr. Snowden's report, the NSA is actually limiting both the number of algorithms that can be used, as well as the complexity of each algorithm - with the aim of have easier access to any data, anywhere, at any time. In addition to limiting algorithms, the NSA has also been installing "back doors" within the encryption of private corporations for even easier access.

The US Government has not denied any of these claims, and the private businesses themselves are saying they had no knowledge of these tactics. While this may be disturbing from an Orwellian standpoint, it presents an even larger problem for the general public. Following the "whistle-blowing" incident, many people took a liberal stance - assuming the NSA oversights would not even pertain to them, because "they have nothing to hide".

Everyone has something to hide. If the NSA is actively installing back door encryption as well as limiting their strength, to bypass data security systems, what is to stop one of those coffee-drinking hackers from using the tools given to them to steal personal information? The proximity in time surrounding Edward Snowden's actions and the overall increase in the amount and severity of data breaches - it is clear there is a correlation linking the NSA to the theft of sensitive information, whether directly or indirectly.

Hackers are using government created programs to steal valuable information from individuals and businesses. As I previously stated, the NSA was able to infiltrate a company like Microsoft as early as 2007, leaving the individual and business owner with a few questions: is our data ever really safe, and will it ever be?

More importantly though, how many identities and how much financial information has been stolen in the short time it took you to read these 532 words?

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