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June 4, 2014:
Google's release of End to End ups the ante.

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Secure Email:

The fact that many emails and messages are essentially "in the clear" as they cross the Internet means that anyone rounting communications through a server can essentially copy the information and parse it out for Big Data and other uses.

How End to End Protects Data.

In 2014, Data Still Rides The Internet Unprotected

The idea behind the End to End browser extension for Chrome is that your data should be encrypted from the time it leaves your web browser until the time your recipient gets it. Most people are blissfully unaware that there are a lot of "hops" between their computers and the destination for their data or emails. They don't know that dozens of servers may be passing information from one hub to another, and all of those servers could be copying and reading message contents. To paraphrase Google, it is as secure as a postcard in the mail. Google also name-shamed providers like Comcast, Amazon, and Pinterest for not encrypting emails in transit. If you stop to think of all the stuff you sent in emails over the last decade and a half, you might be horrified to think that someone may be holding copies of it somewhere to be used for any number of purposes. .

End to End EncryptionFrom a consumer standpoint, Chrome End-To-End is designed to make encryption much easier for the average consumer. Despite the fact that many encryption standards are not 100% secure from a decryption standpoint thanks to tinkering by spy agencies, you at least limit the potential audience for the data you are sending.

The concept of end-to-end, or point to point (P2P) encryption goes beyond Google back to secure communications goes back as far as World War II when Winston Churchill and FDR talked to each other on the SIGSALY system which used random noise to encrypte voice conversations that had been encoded with a Vocoder. (The Vocoder later became a pop music staple that was the forerunner of the Autotune effect, and was used in songs like "Mr. Roboto" and "Mr. Blue Sky" as well as Michael Jackson's "Pretty Young Thing.") Anyway, the use of P2P encryption and end-to-end security are used on debit card transactions, newer credit card terminals, and other communications where it is important to scramble the message before it even gets to potentially insecure places like your phone line, or even the microchips in your own computer. If you run credit cards through a USB reader on your computer, or use a newer Square credit card reader, then the data is encrypted even before it goes through the cord or phone jack. If this wasn't the case, then malware on your phone or computer could copy and send the information. To give another example, a big data breach in 2013 was the result of "ROM Scraper" malware that copied card number inside point of sale devices, and although it was able to capture the encrypted code for debit card PIN numbers, it did not get the numbers themselves becasue of a 3DES encryption standard that cloaks the PIN number before it gets to the POS system. Unfortunately this was not present for the card swipe of the transaction, but this could potentially change when chip cards are more popular.

Notes and Special Information

Special note: You would be shocked and surprised at the amount of information that travels the Internet freely and without protection. Personal financial data, trade secrets, corporate information, research, and things people believe to be private are all out there online, passing betwee recipients while being digitally duplicated along the way. Some years from now, in a dark little room (or a nationally televised show trial) you might find yourself seeing information you wrote or received that you thought was totally private, but was actually carefully stored for use against you at a later date.