Users flock to anonymizing services after NSA snooping reports
However, even vendors offering those services can't guarantee 100% success in shielding data from government surveillance
IDG News Service - Companies offering anonymous Web browsing and communication services are seeing a huge increase in business since recent news leaks about the National Security Agency's mass data collection and surveillance activities.
Disconnect Search, an anonymous Web search service that launched Monday, had more than 400,000 searches by users by Thursday morning, said Casey Oppenheim, its co-founder. Disconnect, which also offers users a service to block companies from tracking them online, started working on Disconnect Search more than a year ago, before the first leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden were published in June.
But Oppenheim said the continuing revelations about NSA data collection are driving users to the search service, he said by email. Web searches are among the most personal information that companies or the government could collect about someone, he said.
"In comparison to search surveillance, I'd probably rather have my phone tapped or my email tracked because I'm filtering myself when I communicate with others in those ways," he said. "Most people don't filter their searches and don't understand how their queries are being tracked, saved, and turned into profiles that are associated with their real names and/or their IP address."
Disconnect Search, a browser extension, allows Web users to continue to use their search engine of choice, but the service routes search queries through Disconnect's servers. The service also prevents search engines from passing keywords to sites that are visited from the search engine's results, and it encrypts all queries.
Another anonymous search service, DuckDuckGo, has seen a steep increase in searches since the Snowden leaks. In May, the month before the first Snowden leaks were published, DuckDuckGo users searched 54.4 million times. In September, users searched 116.7 million times, said a spokesman for the company. DuckDuckGo doesn't collect or store personal information, meaning it doesn't know how many users it has.
Tor, the anonymous browsing project, also has seen a steep increase in use since the Snowden leaks, but it's not easy to determine how much interest the NSA leaks are driving to the project, said Roger Dingledine, Tor project leader.
"We've certainly seen anecdotal growth in interest in Tor, but we don't have any stats to show that more people are using it than before," he added.
Silent Circle, an encrypted communications company co-founded by PGP creator Phil Zimmermann, has also seen an increase in interest since the NSA leaks, but the company didn't immediately have hard numbers.
In fact, Silent Circle decided to close down its secure email service shortly after learning that Lavabit, a secure email service used by Snowden, suspended operations instead of complying with U.S. government demands to turn over its Secure Sockets Layer private key.
This pilot fish is a contractor at a military base, working on some very cool fire-control systems for tanks. But when he spots something obviously wrong during a live-fire test, he can't get the firing-range commander's attention.
- IT Certification Study Tips
- Register for this Computerworld Insider Study Tip guide and gain access to hundreds of premium content articles, cheat sheets, product reviews and more.
- Reduce federal infrastructure risk with compliance management and situational awareness
- IBM continuous monitoring and management solutions deliver real-time situational awareness to help federal agencies understand vulnerabilities, and protect the infrastructure.
- Mission Critical: Managing Mobile Applications & Content
- Smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices have become embedded in enterprise processes, thanks to the consumerization of IT and a new generation of...
- Securing Mobility, From Device to Network
- At one time, the process of managing and securing mobile devices and applications was fairly straightforward. Most organizations worried about one application (email)...
- Planning for Mobile Success
- Many organizations are seeing clear and quantifiable benefits from the deployment of mobile technologies that provide access to data and applications any time,...
- The Challenges and Opportunities of Mobile Application Development
- Nearly all business users now demand mobile devices--their own or company-owned--along with anywhere access to corporate applications and data. What turns mobile devices... All Government IT White Papers
- Keep Servers Up and Running and Attackers in the Dark An SSL/TLS handshake requires at least 10 times more processing power on a server than on the client. SSL renegotiation attacks can readily...
- On Demand: Mastering the Art of Mobile Content Management Mobile device usage in the enterprise has skyrocketed, and it continues to escalate. IT must answer to users who demand access to their...
- DevOps with PureApplication System: Reduce cost and speed delivery with an integrated IBM Cloud solution Join this webcast to hear what ING Netherlands has been able to achieve while deploying DevOps tools from IBM Rational. An ING executive...
- NSS Labs & Cisco Present: Evaluating Leading Breach Detection Systems Today's constantly evolving advanced malware and APTs can evade point-in-time defenses to penetrate networks. Security professionals must evolve their strategy in lockstep to...
- Will the Real Endpoint Threat Detection and Response Please Stand Up? This webinar explores new technologies & process for protecting endpoints from advanced attackers as well as the innovations that are pushing the envelope...
- All Government IT Webcasts