On Tuesday the much discussed Snooper’s Charter (or to give it its official name, the Investigatory Powers Act 2016) was given royal assent and passed into law. Depending on how you view it, this act either provides “unprecedented transparency and substantial privacy protection” (Amber Rudd, Home Secretary) or “one of the most extreme surveillance laws ever passed in a democracy” (Jim Killock, Open Rights Group). As a company that securely stores confidential items, we have a vested interest in staying up to date with any developments in the security world. We wanted to take a more in depth look at this act, just how it could affect the everyday Joe and whether we should be concerned.
As of yesterday, Internet Service Providers and Telephone Companies are required to keep browsing records of sites their customers have visited for a period of 12 months. This information will then be immediately accessible to 48 organisations that crucially, do not have to request a warrant before viewing data. If you feel that as a law abiding citizen that this doesn’t affect you, try thinking of how often you’ve used the internet in the past 12 months and what an overview of your data would reveal. Political leanings thanks to Brexit and Trump? Any medical or financial issues? Religious views? Topics that could potentially be considered ‘subversive’? There can be a general feeling that if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to worry about. But would you comment and provide your email login details below? Or how about the details to your social media accounts? Don’t fancy it? Thought not.
On a personal level, mass surveillance and storage of the public’s details will inevitably lead to a hack of the database where they are stored. However good the government’s security is (and let’s ignore their track record for the time being) someone will always be one step ahead. Whether this is hacking into your ISP or mobile provider, or into the government databases, it is guaranteed to not be good news for the individual affected, as sensitive information falls into the wrong hands. And as for those with malicious intent, they are almost guaranteed to burrow further underground to avoid detection.
So what can you do to protect yourself and your business? First of all, we’d recommend having a read of our Information Security blog series, where we look at just what it is important to protect and offer some ideas on how to do this. Second, have a look on the web at how to avoid the Snooper’s Charter, we liked this and this on using VPNs, and if you’re feeling a bit despondent after this post, this article on a prank played on the Houses of Parliament by Liberty, the Human Rights Group should cheer you up. Or, rumour has it the governement is unable to handle encrypted devices, so you could consider encrypting your hard drives.
Will we be rushing to switch to using VPNs and encryption? We’re a reputable and transparent business, so probably not, however events from the past six months have shown us that the world can change quickly and it’s good to stay informed. It is always good to keep on top of your personal and business security needs.