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Privacy groups look to 'reset Net' to blunt NSA spying

Privacy groups call on Web users to deploy security and encryption tools

By Grant Gross
May 5, 2014 03:19 PM ET

IDG News Service - Web users and developers should take new steps to avoid surveillance by the U.S. National Security Agency and other spy organizations, a group of privacy and digital rights advocates said Monday.

The 30-plus groups, including Fight for the Future, Demand Progress, Reddit, Free Press and the Libertarian Party, have set June 5 as the day to "reset the 'Net" by deploying new privacy tools. June 5 is the anniversary of the first news stories about NSA surveillance based on leaks by former agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Governments are building a "prison" around the Internet, the groups said in a video. "But government spies have a weakness," the video said. "They can hack anybody, but they can't hack everybody. Folks like the NSA depend on collecting insecure data from tapped fiber. They depend on our mistakes -- mistakes we can fix."

The groups are encouraging Web users and developers to use privacy and security tools HTTPS, a secure version of HTTP, HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS), a Web security policy tool, and Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS), a public key cryptography tool.

"HTTPS, HSTS, and PFS are powerful tools that make mass spying much more difficult," the groups say on Resetthenet.org. "Until websites use them, we're sunk: agencies like the NSA can spy on everything. Once they're ubiquitous, mass surveillance is much harder and more precarious -- even if you're the NSA."

The NSA and the U.S. Department of Justice have defended the surveillance programs, saying they are targeted at terrorists and related crimes and are necessary to protect U.S. security.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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