Internet giants Google and Yahoo are taking serious steps to protect users’ data from NSA and other surveillance programs, and some media reports indicate that Facebook and Microsoft are also increasing their security.
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer wrote an open letter to Yahoo users saying the company was taking steps to increasing security and to stopping surveillance of consumers by the NSA.
“There is nothing more important to us than protecting our users’ privacy,” she wrote.
For starters, Yahoo email recently began using “https” encryption with a “2048-bit key.” So what does that mean? Simply put, encryption makes it much more difficult to be detected. Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden said that “encryption works” and that “properly implemented, crypto systems are on one of the few things you can rely upon” to avoid NSA detection.
Yahoo is going a step beyond email and encrypting all of its traffic, although the move won’t be final until early in 2014.
So what are other companies doing? Here’s a rundown:
- Google has reportedly encrypted all of the links to its data centers, also in 2048 bit.
- Google has been encrypting Gmail since 2010,
- Both Google and Yahoo now employ full-time security guards and have installed heat senses, video cameras, and Iris-scanning technology to protect their data centers from physical incursions, The New York Times reported.
- Google employees actually smash and shred old servers to keep the data in them secure.
- Marissa Mayer has also gone out of her way to deny claims that the NSA has access to Yahoo’s data centers. “As you know, there have been a number of reports over the last six months about the US government secretly accessing user data without the knowledge of tech companies, including Yahoo. I want to reiterate what we have said in the past: Yahoo has never given access to our data centers to the NSA or any other government agency. Ever.”
- Google is making stronger efforts to detect fraudulent websites which are one of the main tools hackers use to gain access to data centers.
- The efforts other companies such as Apple, Microsoft and Facebook are taking are not detailed but they’re probably similar to those at Yahoo and Google.
Money playing a role
Money certainly is playing a role in the companies’ efforts. The US cloud computing industry alone could lose between $22 and $35 billion over the next few years because of surveillance fears, according to David Castro of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.
A survey by the Cloud Security Alliance found that 56 percent of non-Americans would be less likely to use a US-made cloud computing solution because of NSA surveillance. The same survey found that 10 percent of non-Americans had canceled a contract with a US company because of Edward Snowden’s revelations about NSA surveillance.
“We’ve already seen impacts on the businesses,” Richard Salgado, Google’s director of law enforcement and information security, told a Senate subcommittee on Nov. 13. NSA programs have “a great potential for doing serious damage to the competitive of US companies,” Salgado added.
“It’s very important that the users of our services understand that we are stewards of their data, we hold it responsibly, we treat it with respect,” Salgado said.