Encrypting your information to protect it from prying eyes – The Hindu.   Excerpt

Gnu Privacy Guard is an open and free encryption standard that works on the idea of Public Key Encryption


“If privacy is outlawed, only outlaws will have privacy.” – Philip Zimmerman


Several people I know feel that Internet surveillance is not a cause for worry when your general activities conform to known laws and social norms. Some even argue that the success of projects such as Loon compensate for Google’s unethical snooping and the subsequent profit it engenders


While the recent Prism controversy was being debated, I happened to read a 1991 essay by Philip Zimmerman, creator of the PGP standard.PGP, Pretty Good Privacy, is an encryption standard that helps you make data and communication unreadable by anyone but the intended recipient. Last updated in 1999, the essay, ‘Why I wrote PGP’, is profoundly relevant 14 years later. The mindsets of governments, it appears, does not advance as quickly as technology.


Zimmerman justifies the use of encryption by everyone when he asks: “What if everyone believed that law-abiding citizens should use postcards for their mail? If a nonconformist tried to assert his privacy by using an envelope for his mail, it would draw suspicion. Perhaps the authorities would open his mail to see what he’s hiding. Fortunately, we don’t live in that kind of world, because everyone protects most of their mail with envelopes. So, no one draws suspicion by asserting their privacy with an envelope. There’s safety in numbers.”


Cryptography is already highly restrictive in countries such as Russia, China, Iran and Iraq. Zimmerman believes that popularising cryptography will help prevent other governments from criminalising it.Unlike the patented PGP, Gnu Privacy Guard (GPG) is an open and free encryption standard. GPG works on the idea of Public Key Encryption (PKE).


What are keys?


Keys are like ciphers; they rattle up your plaintext message and turn it into gibberish before it is sent. To understand PKE, imagine a scenario where you are receiving some gifts on your birthday and you don’t want someone who intercepts the packages to open them. So you give each of your friends a copy of the same padlock and ask them to lock their gift with it. When the gifts reach you, you unlock the gift packets with the only copy of the key that can open the padlock. The padlock, in a PKE system, is called a public key; it can be published on the Internet so that everyone can use it to lock (encrypt) your messages. The key in the PKE system is called a private key, known only to you, and used to decrypt your messages. Before starting to encrypt with GPG, you would have to create such a keypair. The general size of a key is about 2048 bits, and it would take a computer, making 1 million guesses per second, about 1.5 million aeons to break a key.


Besides encrypting your information, GPG allows you to create webs of trust on the Internet. A web of trust is a small circle of people who know each other and use encryption to communicate with each other. This personal kinship between communicators provides an additional wall of security since it dispels any fears of key impersonation. Traditionally, GPG has always had an elegant and popular command line interface that is still in use. There are also several graphical front ends for GPG, available free of cost, that provide services ranging from key management and authentication to encryption. Some examples are wija, Seahorse and Kgpg.


Several email clients such as Evolution, Enigmail and Mutt that use GPG make encryption very easy. GPG is available for free download at http://www.gnupg.org/. The website also provides comprehensive information on getting started with GPG and being aware of the measures to be taken to keep your keys safe.

Excerpt   from Furniture for the Private Person –

We now know that hackers can spy on us through our web cams, and the NSA is reading our texts, emails, and listening to our personal phone calls. It’s enough to make anyone paranoid, pushing the most private people to retreat further into their bubble. Designers have tapped into our desire for seclusion, sometimes with extreme results, as our list of design objects and furniture for the intensely private person reveals. As the traditional work space model shifts and our need for security and solitude changes, these designs offer a bit of quiet and peace of mind.



“Privacy in the office is becoming rare. We felt that people needed a place to escape and have a moment to relax, focus, and have some personal time — to send a text, use a tablet, make a call, think,” Mike Simonian of Mike & Maaike said of his Windowseat. The design was inspired by memories of playing inside a cardboard box as a child.


This minimalist desk, inspired by seashells, allows you to retreat into a bubble that offers privacy without sacrificing light and style.


Nick Ross designed this clever confessional furniture, which allows you to chat with your friends about those texts you sent last night, without the prying eyes of the NSA.


This curvy television and privacy canopy is pleasing to look at and functional.



As coworking becomes more popular, design studio TILT is ready to meet the needs of those requiring flexibility and privacy. Their Quiet and Call furniture pieces were created in collaboration with staff and patients at a London hospital, but the simple furniture can be easily transported anywhere you need a tiny hideaway.


James McAdam designed the Safe Bedside Table. Made from birch, maple, and leather, the all-in-one self-defense unit has a removable leg and top surface that acts as a club and shield.


Art Lebedev Studio invented the labyrinthine Defendius security lock. Don’t be surprised if people start rejecting your dinner invitations.


No one will know how the hell to open the Tout Va Bien Cabinet to get their mitts on your private stuff. The bas-relief is stylish, but somewhat threatening when viewed from certain angles.


The Antoinette chair, from Cate & Nelson, is a discrete seating area that doubles as a room divider. The translucent fabric offers just enough privacy without appearing completely standoffish.

Veasyble designers Gloria Pizzilli, Arianna Petrakis, Ilaria Pacini and Adele Bacci create wearable objects that provide instant intimacy in any environment.

Completely disappear in Joon Soo Kim’s Hand on Chair. The chairs connect with magnets to create the ultimate safe spot.

NU-OVO, from Italian architect Paolo Maldotti, is a mobile pod that can be placed indoors or out for a lockable personal retreat.


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