If you have followed some of the Wizardgold video tutorials on Youtube you will see that I’m interested in encryption. I have video tutorials showing you how to encrypt your emails and you can use the same GPG encryption system to encrypt any of your files. With all of the bad things that are happening around the world at the moment, There are always bad things happening – there is renewed interest in privacy and security. Politicians that have no idea whatsoever about how technology works, are looking to have a crackdown on ordinary citizens using encryption. David Cameron, the British Priminister has made a statement in which he says that he is looking for cooperation from the US president and also the companies that hold our data, to get back door access to anybody’s data are they require it. Companies such as Apple and Google have already taken the stand that they don’t want to be involved with this type of shenanigans. They are making their system work in such a way as they would not be able to show their users data, to anybody, including governments and law enforcement even if they were asked to. Quite simply they are not going to hold the keys so it will be impossible for them to be coerced into divulging their customers private information. This is as it should be, because what the politicians don’t realise is that if there is a back door in, then it is a gaping hole for anybody to use. The bad hackers that are out there will do whatever they can in order to find these access points so they can also have unfettered access to our data.
When politicians are making statements like this it kind of shows the world just how stupid they are and two-faced to boot. On one hand they take part in parades in Paris to show solidarity with free speech and then with the other hand they turn around and say that the general public are not allowed to have privacy and security of their own data. The same goes for religious leaders and yes Pope Frankie we are talking about you. On one hand they condemn the attacks on free speech by religion inspired extremists and then say that free speech has limits. Obviously they don’t like the idea of free speech taking the Mickey out of their religion either.
This week I have tested out an application called Tutanota which allows you to send encrypted email without having the bother of trying to understand public and private key encryption. You can get the application to use this from your mobile devices and you can send encrypted email to anybody even if they don’t have the application or an account with this service. I think it is still better to use GPG as you are the person responsible for looking after the private keys which you use to decrypt anything that has been sent to you encrypted.
When using an external service you do have to put a certain amount of trust into how that service works and whoever is running that service. With Tutanota the way that sending private emails works is that you send the encrypted message and you get the password to your recipient by other separate and safe means. Your agreed password with your recipient you can send by a secure chat service that you know has end-to-end encryption. You could go the analog route by actually making a phone call and telling your recipient the password. If you are completely paranoid then you could decide that the only way to pass the password along safely would be to do it face-to-face. You would use a similar process if you are giving somebody your public key from GPG encryption if you need to make sure of the key verification. It is all about trust and signing of keys. If you know a key definitely belongs to someone you can sign it and boost its level of trust for everybody. This is why you sometimes have GPG public key parties. This would be where a group of people wishing to use encryption will actually meet up and verify that the public key they are being given belongs to the person they are expecting to get messages from.
So the nitty-gritty of the way that Tutanota works with somebody who is not subscribed to the service, is they receive an email that has been encrypted and is therefore unreadable by anyone. Within that email there is a link to go to the Tutanota website and that is where they put in the password allowing them to read that email. The weak link in this service is that it assumes that the computer being used by the recipient is not compromised. It assumes that there are no keyloggers installed or other malware which can both steal the key, the password to open the email or just be able to read the email anyway. The other reason why I would prefer to take control of my own encryption keys is the fact that Tutanova is being done as a web service and I don’t personally know how secure that web service really is.
You have to take into account the level of security and privacy that you’re looking for when you choose the encryption method you are going to use. For better quality general-purpose encryption then I would recommend using GPG and you can have a look at my tutorials which show you how to use it. It is a little bit more difficult to understand exactly how the public and private key system works. Once you have got your head around it you’ll see that it is actually fairly easy to use especially when you are using a plug-in for your email application on your Mac or your iOS device. The next best encryption that I would recommend would be to use the certificates that you can get from places like StartSSL and Comodo. They are free to use if you use the certificates that last for just one year. These companies in my opinion can be trusted and you have to verify yourself in order to get the certificate. This gives a level of trust to let other people know that you are who you say you are when you are communicating with them. This system is a little bit more difficult to set up, but once it is in place it is quite easy to use. The difficulty with this one would be where you want to communicate with somebody who is not technically minded enough to be able to get it set up in the first place. There are other encryption applications you can use where you control the keys and you are not reliant upon a service like Tutanota. With one of these you would be able to encrypt a file or some text and use the password method in the same way as you would with Tutanota. As they say, you pays your money and you make your choice.
Do have a look at the Wizardgold YouTube channel and find the tutorials to learn how to use GPG encryption. The Apple mail application in the Yosemite has just had the plug-in updated to work as it did before it was broken by the operating system upgrade. You can also use GPG encryption with the mail application Postbox. This app is in the latest MacHeist bundle if you want to get your hands on it. I used it for a while but find I prefer the Apple Mail App. When you’ve got everything set up for your sending and receiving of encrypted emails, if you need to, you can send me some emails and have a practice. The same goes for using the certificates if you want to see how that works. I am always open to answer your questions.
Blogging with Scrivener
As you know, I am a big fan of Scrivener the writer’s application and it is the app that I use when I am writing my books. The first of these books is coming out soon and the brand name is Goodandgeeky. The first book looks at having a writer’s workflow which is technology-based with the hardware and software that I like to use from Apple. Whenever I have some writing to do it doesn’t matter if I am out and about with my iPad or iPhone or whether I am in my office. My flexible writers workflow even works great when I am lying down on the sofa with my feet up dictating with Siri into my iPad Air 2.
What I do presently with my writing is that I put it all into text documents that I have written using markdown. I do keep all of these text documents in one place and to help me find them at a later stage I use the tagging, keywords that is part of the operating system. Whenever I save a new file I always add the tags. So I have a tag for each of my podcasts and if I want to search for example through Mac20Q work that I have done I can search with that tag. That tag will bring up everything connected to Mac 20 Questions. This means I will see graphics I have made using Affinity Designer, Pixelmator, Art Text 2 as well as any text documents and the audio files that I create when I’m making the podcast using Amadeus Pro.
I have been thinking lately though, that it would be useful to have all of these text documents in one place and Scrivener would be the perfect place to put them all. This would be useful if I decide at a later stage that I want to create a book from any writings that I have made so far for any of my blog sites.
What a mess
My mom is driving me to distraction. She has an iPad, and iPhone and a MacBook. The iPad and iPhone are signed into different Apple ID’s and I haven’t seen how the Macbook is connected. She has been gettin the people in the shop that sold her the phone to help her and she has no idea about security. Passwords are terrible even though she has the 1Password app. She goes home tomorrow and I wished I had come across this problem earlier so I could sort it out. I want to do it so that she is not having to travel home from Barcelona to Birmingham tomorrow without either one or the other having been taken out of service by what I have to do to it.
When she gets home I will get her to tell me what Apple ID is on the Macbook and that may help us decide which of the iOS devices have to be changed. It will be good if I can get her to make a back up first too. I had better persuade here to bring all the devices next time she comes and I can really make sure all is set up right.
These people in the Apple shops and phone shops helping her have made a crap job of guiding her to set up the iOS device. No wonder I am annoyed. I am a bit miffed – Can you tell…
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