In this series I recommend tools that meet certain criteria: they have to be free of charge, useful or fun, and they have to work at least on both linux and windows.
Suggestions are welcome
Oh well we are halfway into the month of December already and I couldn't decide on something specific yet. So let's weaken our criteria a little an decide to recommend not a specific tool but a specific kind of tool
: tools that can help to protect your privacy. However, this will not be a full-fledged privacy protection thing, I will suggest a few things to get started, and to make you think about protecting your privacy.
The houseforge recommendation for December 2007! Short
Do everything you can to protect your privacy, starting with your electronic communications! Encrypt your email, encrypt your instant messages and IRC chats. It is possible with the help of:Longer
Let's look at two popular means of modern electronic communication: email
Because email uses a let's say clear text protocol, anyone between you and the recipient of your email can read it without any problems. With a so called packet sniffer one can see the complete email, header, subject, and body, as it "goes over the wire". If you send confidential or sensitive information, or even if you don't want everybody to read your email, you need to encrypt them. There are various encryption algorithm of various strength.
houseforge recommendation December 2007: Protection
For encrypting email, PGP
(Pretty Good Privacy) and it's open source equivalent GnuPG
(Gnu Privacy Guard) have become popular; partially because their encryption is very strong and because they are compatible: PGP encrypted email can be decrypted with GnuPG and vice versa. This scheme is called public-key cryptography and is explained at Wikipedia
There are plugins for various email programs, for example enigmail
(which uses gnupg) for mozilla thunderbird
. What a coincidence, these are both available for many platforms
I can't go into detail about setting these up now, because I want to finish this article
OK, after you know you should encrypt you email communication and how to do it, we go to instant messages and the likes. The matter is equally complicated because of the many clients for each protocol and because there are several (sometimes incompatible) encryption schemes. Let's pick a few and bear the wrath of the users whose clients we neglect now. For IRC xchat
Of course here I recommend pidgin
! There is an OTR-plugin available, which works very well. Another choice is Miranda IM
, which is particularly attractive because its security and privacy addons
include OTR and GnuPG.
For these clients we have mouser's mircryption
. IIRC, they are even compatible and use a quite strong encryption scheme. Messages are encrypted before sending, and are decrypted before displaying them to the user. So, again, the evil MIM (man in the middle) cannot peep in to find out what you are talking about. From my point of view, installation and use is pretty easy: load the plugin, set a masterkey, exchange a key with your peer, and start cyb3rsex0ring. Wrapping it up
fitting the criteria
This has been a rather vague recommendation, but I think it fits our houseforge criteria: The tools are (mostly) free and (mostly) cross-platform. GnuPG works on several platforms
, so does http://mozilla thunderbird
, and therefore http://enigmail
is cross-platform too, as are http://mircryption
(both work with http://mirc
There obviously is no point in encrypting
when your peers can't decrypt
. This is one obstacle you have to overcome: get them to use encryption too!