Encryption: Are there any secrets on the Web?

The NSA has cracked common forms of encryption used not just by terrorists, but also by regular consumers and businesses.

Is anything online safe? asked Larry -Seltzer in ZDNet.com. Last week, a joint report from The Guardian, The New York Times, and ProPublica.org revealed that the National Security Agency had managed to crack many common forms of encryption used on the Internet not just by terrorists, but also by regular consumers and businesses.

The NSA’s efforts appear mostly geared “to get around the cryptography rather than to break it directly,” often using “black hat methods.” The truly upsetting revelation is that the NSA is allegedly working hand in hand with tech companies to gain backdoor access, allowing analysts “to sniff traffic to these sites unimpeded by encryption.”

Let’s not freak out, said Sean Lawson in Forbes.com. “The fact is that the NSA is not likely to want into your, or my, computer.” The real problem is that other people might. It now appears that some common tools—like the encryption many companies use to protect their private networks and the 4G/LTE encryption used by wireless carriers—might be vulnerable to NSA intrusion.
But such encryption can still “provide protection against the more likely threat, which is a malicious actor in the coffee shop sniffing traffic and stealing personal information from other users.” The key to personal Internet security is to stay vigilant. It makes no sense to abandon tools that enhance your privacy out of concern over “a ubiquitous adversary that is likely not targeting you, and that you likely could not stop anyway.”

And there are plenty of such tools at your disposal, said Bruce Schneier in The Guardian. As long as you’re using the latest software, the best encryption available, and a strong password, odds are your data will be safe, at least from the garden-variety hackers that do the most damage. But if you’re concerned, start using software like Tor, which anonymizes your network activity. Hackers and the NSA might target Tor users and others who encrypt their communications, “but it’s work for them.”

And by taking those precautions, “you’re much better protected than if you communicate in the clear.” For the absolute highest security, break the chain of transmission with an “air gap.” That is, buy a new computer that has never been connected to the Internet and transfer files only on physical media, such as USB sticks. And don’t trust commercial or proprietary security software, especially from larger vendors. “My guess is that most encryption products from large U.S. companies have NSA-friendly back doors.” Open-source products are much more difficult for hackers to secretly infiltrate or modify.

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The Largest List of text & Chat acronyms is available as a book!

Ever seen an acronym you didn’t know? Are you a parent or teacher with kids online? Are you a business professional trying to stay savvy? Or just someone who loves to get online…

In an age where everything from job searching to dating is interactive, knowing how to communicate in your online life is a must.  There are new technologies, new online services, and new lingo created every day. If you think it's tough to keep up with it all, you’re not alone.

Welcome to the weird, wonderful world of online jargon ;-) Not only has the Internet and texting changed the way we communicate, it has spawned an entirely new language that is growing every day.

That’s why there is NetLingo, to keep track of new terms and organize it in a way that is useful to you. Whether you're a professional who feels like you're on information overload, or a power user who wants more, or a parent who wants to keep up with your kids, NetLingo.com can help.

NetLingo published a second book “NetLingo: The List - The Largest List of Text & Chat Acronyms” and it contains all of acronyms and abbreviations you’ll see in text messages, email, IM, social networks, websites, dating sites, job sites, auction sites, discussion forums, gaming sites, chat rooms, blogs… oh, and in the real world too.

The updated 2014 version of “NetLingo: The List” (136 pages) defines the crazy array of letters, numbers and symbols that comprise our new conversations. Known as acronyms, abbreviations, SMS talk and leetspeak, these terms are used by millions of people in a variety of online settings. This edition contains French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Finnish, Swedish, Welch, Czech and Chinese text terms too!

See if you know any of these popular acronyms and text codes
POTATO
BRB
LOL
IRL
w00t!
POS
DRIB
GR8
ROTFL
WTF
OMW
WSUP
BOHICA
PDOMA
WOMBAT
pron
S2R
solomo
w’s^
ysdiw8
?^
143
182
303
404
459
53X
831
88
9
What are acronyms and why are they so popular?

With millions of people texting and instant messaging every day, it's no wonder you've seen this cryptic looking code. Acronyms are an integral part of computer culture and grew rapidly on the Internet. Now, along with an alphabet soup of abbreviations and symbolic messages, this online jargon has become a language of its own.

So what are acronyms? Shorthand? How do you begin to understand a new language?

Let’s start with the basics: An acronym is derived from the first letters of a phrase and is pronounced as a new word, for example POTATO stands for “People Over Thirty Acting Twenty One” and is pronounced "potato."

Shorthand refers to an abbreviation, or initialism, that is pronounced by saying the letters one-by-one, for example FYI is pronounced "F-Y-I" and BRB is pronounced "B-R-B".  There are, of course, exceptions. Some acronyms go both ways, such as FAQ, which can be pronounced "fak" or "F-A-Q".

It should also be noted that acronyms are generally typed IN ALL CAPS (not to be confused with SHOUTING) whereas shorthand is often typed in all lowercase.

Now let’s start to mix things up. Sometimes the shorthand isn't shorter than the original phrase, for example "dewd" means "dude" and "kewl" means "cool" and :::poof::: means "I'm gone".

Now let’s add some symbols and numbers! Leetspeak is the name for a type of symbolic jargon in which you replace regular letters with other keyboard characters to form words, for example:

·      backward and forward slashes create this shape "/\/\" to stand for the letter M;
·      numbers and symbols often replace the letters they resemble (for example the term "leetspeak" is written as "!337$p34k");
·      letters can be substituted for other letters that might sound alike (such as "ph" is transposed with "f" so "phear" is used instead of "fear"); and
·      common typing errors such as "teh" instead of "the" and “pwn” instead of “own” are left uncorrected.

The result is a dynamic written language that eludes conformity or consistency. In fact, the culture of online jargon encourages new forms of expression and users will often award each other's individual creativity.

So what makes texting and instant messaging so popular?

In short, it’s fast, cheap, and cool. itz hw 2 tlk w/o bng hrd ;-)

Texting lets you finalize last-minute plans, track down friends, send pictures, correspond while traveling, and pass on information with just a few clicks of the cell phone keypad. IM lets you have real-time conversations with friends or colleagues or several people at once on your computer screen. Texing and IM are popular because they are private: no one can hear you “talking.” Acronyms and smileys are popular because they’re short and they bring emotional expression into a written world. 

Face it, communication is changing. It’s becoming quicker and less formal, and while it’s impossible to capture every instance of every text message out there, this is the definitive list. Many people at some point will use or see a variation of a term in this book, often without the vowels so as to keep the text or IM short. Such as: omw, meet me n frnt pls -or- got ur vm, thx 4 info, ttyl

Think it’s tough to understand? It’s not, take this test:

Cna yuo raed tihs? Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can.
i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghi t pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh?

Like most new things, communicating in abbreviations may seem strange at first but then fun after awhile. Get copies of “NetLingo: The List” for anyone you know who loves to get online! Not recommended for children under 14 due to serious adult humor, it will entertain you as you look up and translate the chat acronyms and text symbols you come across in your life online. The one place to learn all of the online terms you’ll ever need to know is NetLingo.com.

Erin Jansen is founder of NetLingo.com and author of “NetLingo: The Internet Dictionary” and “NetLingo: The List - The Largest List of Text & Chat Acronyms.” Sign up for the free Acronym of the Day!

The economics of Netflix: Making a $100 million show

Economics of Netflix
Source: GreatBusinessSchools.org

The Internet: Is the U.S. losing control of the Web?

According to some experts, Internet freedom is in danger. L. Gordon Crovitz in The Wall Street Journal reported that the Obama administration announced plans to relinquish oversight of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, an international consortium of business groups and government agencies that assigns and maintains Web addresses and domain names. But the move will invite “Russia, China, and other authoritarian governments” to “fill the power vacuum caused by America’s unilateral retreat.” Russia and China have already pushed to get rid of ICANN altogether, looking to replace it with a group that would outlaw anonymity on the Web and tax sites like Google and Facebook to “discourage global Internet companies from giving everyone equal access.”

“Hold on a minute,” said Katherine Maher in Politico.com. “No one actually ‘€˜controls’ the Internet.” ICANN’s job is to coordinate the names and numbering system used to “match human-readable domains” with their number-based Internet Protocol addresses. And while ICANN is technically based in California, the organization has offices all over the world and commercial and noncommercial members from 111 countries and international organizations. That’s why ceding U.S. control of ICANN is the right move, said Edward J. Black in HuffingtonPost.com. With each new revelation of online surveillance and censorship, it’s becoming clearer than ever that Internet freedom “faces unprecedented challenges.” By “strengthening a multi-stakeholder group like ICANN,” the Obama administration is trying to pre-empt a political standoff with other world powers over Internet access for the general public. After all, “we do not‘€”and should not‘€”try to retain or expand the role of any governments seeking to control” the Internet, including our own.

But try telling that to lawmakers, said Brian Fung in WashingtonPost.com. Politicians worry that a multi-stakeholder system “could enable foreign governments to impose regulations on the Internet.” They just don’t get that the United States’ oversight of ICANN has been mainly symbolic. In fact, it is precisely our government’s nominal position atop the addressing system that “gives Russia and China the grounds to call for a different” one. Ceding control doesn’t open the floodgates for Russia, or China, or even North Korea to “run roughshod over the Web.” Instead, it evens the playing field. And since ICANN is specifically set up to prevent “any one actor from dominating what happens,” any fears about a foreign takeover of the Web are pretty far-fetched. What’s more, ICANN so far has proved rather effective at “keeping Russia, China, and other authoritarian regimes in check.”

- As seen in The Week
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