NSA F**k Off: Coming Soon Open Source Encryption for People Like Me

SnowdenAPEncryption is not fun and easy. I fooled around a bit the Pretty Good Privacy and found it frustrating and complicated to use. Fortunately, Edward Snowden's revelations of just how intrusive the national security surveillance state is has now provoked efforts to create user friendly encryption. 

BlockPrism is a non-profit project launched by a group of computer science students at the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam and a mechanical engineering student at Stanford University in Palo Alto. They want to make encryption easy by creating programming tools that allow seamless integration across social media, without the user having to go through any trouble to encrypt his or her messages. They explain in an email that as a prototype that they have programmed a Chrome browser plugin, available in Facebook Chat here (video). In order to complete development and to make it available on mobile devices (iOS and Android), they have launched the indiegogo campaign.

The "zero knowledge" cloud storage company SpiderOak has developed Crypton, an open-source software project that aims to make it easy for software developers to create "zero knowledge" applications as way to stymie online surveillance efforts. As Infoworld reported:

Crypton is essentially a framework that allows applications to encrypt data within a web browser before it is sent to a remote server.

Advancements in web browsers over the last few years have made Crypton possible. The JavaScript engines in web browsers are much more powerful and can handle intensive encryption tasks such as generating the key needed to lock and unlock encrypted data....

Users have peace of mind that even if a company was subpoenaed by a court, the company would not be able to decrypt the data, making it useless. ... The encryption keys remain on a user's computer.

The bottom-up creativity inherent in the technologies of freedom gives me the hope that they will always eventually outrun the top-down centralized technologies of oppression.

For some relatively simple ways to annoy government spies, see my column, "How To Keep Your Government From Spying on You."

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Warrren||


  • NeonCat||

    What you did there, I see it with my x-ray vision.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Don't be a fool! All these "students" are actually CIA and NSA operatives tricking you into using their "encryption" tools. They just call it open source because they know no one actually understands this shit.

  • ||

    I was about to make the same joke and then it hit me; that is not so unbelievable.

    I have heard people make the argument that desiring to encrypt your data is evidence that you are up to no good.

  • ||

  • Paul.||

    I prefer to simply make all my online communications utterly unintelligible.

    This is your best strategy.

  • Dweebston||

    So you admit you're the hand inside the Tony sockpuppet.

  • ||

    They explain in an email that as a prototype that they have programmed a Chrome browser plugin

    You know who else created a Chrome browser plugin to escape the burdens imposed on them by an oppressive, uncaring bureaucracy?

  • ||


  • ||

    If I could figure out the threading here I'd tell you the answer.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Whatever happened to Phil Zimmerman, anyway? I met him briefly at a conference in Chicago, many years ago.

  • Warrren||

    He's only seen when he wants to be seen. His privacy is pretty good.

  • Gladstone||

    Zimmerperson you mean. Cuz TEH PATRIARCHY!

  • ||

    He changed his first name, got plastic surgery, and moved to Florida. He remains interested in personal security, but more on a neighborhood level.

  • Paul.||

    Zimmermann received a B.S. degree in computer science from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida in 1978


  • Warrren||

    He's only seen when he wants to be seen. His privacy is pretty good.

  • Paul.||

    He's still about. He's president of a company which does encryption.


    Silent Circle.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Encryption is not fun and easy. I fooled around a bit the Pretty Good Privacy and found it frustrating and complicated to use.

    Really? C'mon, son! GPG4win basically does everything for you except chew your food. There's a plug-in for Mozilla Thunderbird for crying out loud!

  • Cliché Bandit||

    GPG for Mac also, They just updated in response to all this stuff...they had been dragging their heels but got on the ball a few weeks back.

  • Paul.||

    Well, if they can make it easy to use for the average Mac user, color me impressed.

  • Marc F Cheney||

    GPGMail is very easy to use. Integrated right into Mail.

    I've also got a Silent Circle address.

    The only problem is that I don't know anybody else that uses public-key encryption, so none of my stinking email is ever actually encrypted.

  • Dweebston||

    Alright, but just how unassailable are these encryption schemes? I've heard the feds run petaflop computers and can fairly easily overcome open-source encryption, although I'm not at all knowledgeable on the subject.

  • Hyperion||

    If you are using one of these security measures, you are obviously guilty of something.

  • Hyperion||

    Maybe Somalia really is Libertopia:

    Somalis don't like paying taxes

    The comments are actually pretty good.

  • pmains||

    What's this now? Not everyone views arbitrary shakedowns by people with shiny badges to be on the up and up? Barbarians!

  • MappRapp||

    Sounds like some pretty cool stuff to me dude.


  • dontodd||

    Open Whisper Systems has Android apps for encrypting voice calls and SMS. The only problem is both parties have to be using the same app.


Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.