Is it time to rethink our communications?

Is it time to rethink how we communicate and what means we use?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In the light of the government surveillance of Internet traffic, etc., it may be time to rethink how we communicate with one another and which steps to take to regain our privacy.

When it comes to letters and especially emails the use of ciphers may have to be considered once again to stop the authorities spying on the content of such messages.

dead drop1However, any algorithm-based and especially computer-generated codes and cyphers can be broken by the same machines that generate them. It has been shown, though, that messages as were created by espionage agencies during the World Wars, the Cold War, and already before, are, basically, uncrackable by computers. The message found on the leg of a dead carrier pigeon from the time of WWII in 2012 in Britain and which GCHQ and other have admitted they will never able to crack as they cannot understand what the code is based on. It could appear that that particular cypher is based on a book that both the sender and recipient had and the code based on that.

The 5-figure code thus created never repeats the same number for the same letter or word and thus is, basically, uncrackable, at least not in a short space of time, not even by the most powerful computers.

Both emails and letters have been and are subject to intercept by the like of the NSA, GCHQ and other spy agencies and while emails will arrive at the recipient letters may not or are also subject to intercept and then delivery, slightly delayed.

While, in theory, law enfarcement (no, this is not a typo) do require a warrant to intercept mail (and this goes also for telephonic communications) the truth is a different one and intercept without warrant happens rather all too frequently.

We can always, nowadays, take it for granted that the authorities will take it upon themselves, claiming they have to act to prevent terrorist attack, to read the letters (and other postal communications) of people who they deem to fall into the terrorist category, and this could even simply be journalists and bloggers.

So other ways needs to be found and used to prevent such intercepts.

Here we may have to reconsider, and I use that word deliberately, the use of couriers and dead letter drops.

Such couriers, as in the days of the coffee houses of old and the penny post, could just be someone who travels to a certain location where he or she either drops a letter or package off at an address or, better still, some other collection point. In the days of the penny post such a drop off point was another coffee house, obviously, where the recipient would visit daily or every so often and then take receipt of his mail.

It is a sad state of affairs that in a so-called free society one has to even consider such steps despite the postal law that states that tampering – and that includes the agencies – with the mail in any shape or form is a felony. It would appear that the law only applies to ordinary mortals and the agencies deem themselves above the law and, apparently, are treated in such a way as well by the law.

Every citizen is, in our society, which is supposed to be free, regarded as a terrorist and criminal, so it would appear, considered guilty until he or she can prove him- or herself innocent and every contact one may have and correspond and communicate with, whether by email, mail, telephone or social media is considered a co-conspirator.

It has to be assumed that even if the authorities are not reading each and every mail and email the details of sender and recipient are being recorded and archived “just in case”.

Dead letter drops – and no, you don't have to kill the letter first – can be many kinds of locations and I am sure that we all have seen such in use in spy movies or read about them in the appropriate kind of books. But dead letter drops were not just used by spies but also by others who had to operate in one way or the other clandestinely and it would appear that in our society today we all will have to send much of our communications in one or the other clandestine way.

Other ways of such communications are letters (and emails) that appear totally normal stating, for instance, that “Uncle Jim's cow has a new calf”, but the true meaning being only known to the sender and the recipient. Such messages were used, by radio broadcast via the BBC in those days, for the resistance and SOE agents in occupied France.

Telephonic communications cannot, unless one has a serious end-to-end encryption VoIP system, be considered secure at all and cell phone communications not at all. All must be regarded as being monitored and thus we must either work out codes with the other side or, on the other hand, be careful what we say and how we say things.

The spy agencies of our various countries, external and internal, employ computer programs – Echelon and Carnivore being just two of them – that scan in real time for so-called key words and the list of those words is available on the Internet on more than one location. The mere use, in email or telephone call, of such a key word or several of them will immediately trigger the program to intercept and record the communication and may render the parties subject to investigation and further surveillance.

Government and its agencies are definitely out of control and no change in government will make the slightest difference. It would appear that, while we are all being considered terrorists and criminals we will have to make the change and change the system, not the government.

© 2013