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December 02, 2013

Will New Security Solutions Protect Against NSA Snooping?

By Ed Silverstein
TMCnet Contributor

It’s clear that there is a surge of interest in solutions that will protect against unwanted attempts to reach users’ private information. The main source of this recent anxiety has been the National Security Agency (News - Alert) (NSA) – which created controversy over its surveillance techniques and continues to sort through private information. Also, the NSA continues to bypass encryption used by many businesses and individuals. In fact, recent news reports claim the NSA spent billions of dollars on data surveillance over the recent decade.

Already, the NSA was reportedly able to break through Google’s (News - Alert) and Yahoo’s data center communications. Access may have been made via fiber-optic cables. In particular, Level 3 provided Google and Yahoo with such cables, according to news reports. Yahoo denies providing the NSA access. "Yahoo has never given access to our data centers to the NSA or to any other government agency. Ever," Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer said in a statement last month. In response, Yahoo expects to encrypt all of its services in the beginning in 2014.

Overall, news about the NSA’s surveillance methods has led to more use of encrypted e-mail, secure instant messaging and other privacy services, according to The Associated Press.

“But the flood of new computer security services is of variable quality, and much of it, experts say, can bog down computers and isn't likely to keep out spies,” The AP report adds.

"Every time a situation like this erupts you're going to have a frenzy of snake oil sellers who are going to throw their products into the street," Carson Sweet, CEO of CloudPassage (News - Alert), was quoted by the story. "It's quite a quandary for the consumer."

Among the available products highlighted in the news media are:, a messaging app; MailPile, which provides public key encryption; Younited, which protects cloud storage; and Pirate Browser, which protects search history. Others include: Silent Circle, RedPhone, Threema, TextSecure, and Wickr.

“Many of the people behind these programs are well known for pushing the boundaries of privacy and security online,” The AP adds. “The quality of these new programs and services is uneven, and a few have run into trouble.”

So the key advice is let the buyer beware. "What we found is the encryption services range in quality," George Kurtz, CEO of CrowdStrike, said in a statement to The AP. "I feel safe using some built by people who know what they are doing, but others are Johnny-come-latelies who use a lot of buzzwords but may not be all that useful."

Edited by Cassandra Tucker
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