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This Week in Internet News: India Bans 118 Apps From Chinese Companies

Eyes on you: A U.S. appeals court has ruled that a National Security Agency program that collected call data from millions of U.S. residents was illegal, The Hill reports. The call metadata collection program, exposed by Edward Snowden, was suspended in 2015. The court ruled that the bulk collection of phone records violated laws requiring agencies to seek court orders when collecting investigation-related information from private businesses.

Ban hammer strikes again: The Indian government has banned 118 apps from Chinese companies, including the popular PUBG Mobile shooter game, Indian Express says. The Indian IT ministry says the blocked apps are potential security threats. “In view of the emergent nature of threats [the ministry] has decided to block 118 mobile apps since in view of the information available they are engaged in activities which is prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, security of the state and public order,” the ministry said.

Privacy delayed: Apple has delayed a release of anti-tracking software in an iPhone operating system update after app developers raised concerns that the tool would destroy their ability to deliver targeted advertising, the Los Angeles Times reports. The new tool would have automatically blocked tracking and would have required apps that wanted to track users to ask for their permission.

Hacking the vote: Russian hackers have attempted to breach two voter registration databases in the U.S., NBC News reports. In one case, the hackers were able to steal 200,000 voter records in Illinois, U.S officials told NBC. U.S. officials accused Russian intelligence agencies of being behind the attacks. It’s unclear what the Russians want to do with the voter information.

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Encryption Strengthening the Internet

Chapter Leaders Worldwide Make the Case for Strong Encryption

What makes a great leader? Earlier this year, 473 Chapter Members participated in the 2020 Chapters Training Program. The Internet Society kicked off the program with a lot of hope and excitement. This was an opportunity to harness the power of us – our global community – to incubate innovative ideas and tomorrow’s Internet leaders.

The program aimed to develop new community leaders to work with their Chapters, create local awareness of the Internet Society’s mission-driven work, and become involved in Action Plan projects, including Encryption.

Each time we share information on the Internet, we assume that only our selected recipients – and no one else – will receive and read it. But how can we be sure? Ursula Wyss of the Switzerland Chapter says, this is “where end-to-end encryption comes in, since it ensures that only you and those people who are intentionally included in the conversation can read the messages that are being exchanged. This is done by scrambling the message in a way that it can only be read by those who have the right encryption key to unscramble it. For everyone else, the messages remain scrambled.”

The Encryption Chapters Training Program was developed to equip Chapter Leaders with knowledge and tools to engage their members locally in an impactful and informed way. It included 139 trainees from 66 Chapters. They watched 10 videos and attended a two-hour training session with Internet Society staff and experts from the community, including Chapter Leaders from Germany, the U.S., Canada, India, Ghana, and Bolivia as well as partners such as Derechos Digitales.

Why Does Encryption Matter?

“With an escalation in hackings over the past decade, breaches in our private data are of ubiquitous meaning now more than ever and, for this, encryption is key,” writes Loide Uuzigo of the Namibia Chapter in “The Time For Encryption Is Now.

Encryption safeguards the personal security of billions of people and the national security of countries around the world. These are just a few examples of how:

Internet privacy concerns are real: Encryption helps protect your online privacy by turning personal information into “for your eyes only” messages, seen only by the parties it’s shared with.

Hacking is big money: Cybercrime is a global business, often run by multinational outfits. Many of the headline-making large-scale data breaches demonstrate that cybercriminals are often out to steal personal information for financial gain. End-to-end encryption, the most secure form of encryption, ensures that sensitive, confidential information transmitted by billions of people online every day remains confidential and out of the hands of criminals.

Online health and learning solutions rely on it: With people worldwide increasingly relying on telehealth and remote learning during a pandemic, encryption is a must. For instance, in the U.S. the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires healthcare providers to implement security features that help protect patients’ sensitive health information online.

Once armed with information, the Encryption Chapters Training Program trainees developed local initiatives to amplify awareness of the critical role encryption plays in our everyday lives. Here are a few of the submissions that stood out:

Encryption helps protect private information, sensitive data, and can enhance the security of communication between two parties,” says Theorose Elikplim Dzineku, an Internet Society Ghana Chapter Member. “Whereas the Internet proposes a host of ways to communicate with friends, co-workers, and complete strangers, it also allows third parties to intrude on those communications, as well as track online conversations and activities. Using encryption tools helps individuals keep communications secret and protect swapping activities of personal tales with a friend or transacting important business with a client.”

Says Rahabu Sakilali of Tanzania, “with the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual conferencing and social media became the go-to place to hold lessons, business meetings and sensitive discussions. Encryption makes the virtual platforms safe!  End-to-end encryption protects ourselves and our data. It also helps us be sure who we are communicating with, sign digital documents and ensure the recipient is authentic.”

Effective encryption is a foundation for us to build trust on the Internet”, states Josephine Nampala of the Uganda Internet Society Chapter. In fact, during the COVID-19 pandemic, end-to-end encryption’s got us covered. “With the social distancing that is required to control the pandemic, many enterprises are opting to operate remotely. As well, many people are trying so much to keep close to their loved ones through different online platforms.” In these situations, we need to be sensitive about our privacy online, and strong encryption is key for us to trust the Internet.

Many trainees shared Spanish-language resources, too. Highlights include this video from Oscar Danilo González Navarrete of the Nicaragua Chapter, a blog post from Fernando Manuel Morales Rodas of the Guatemala Chapter, which includes videos that explain Encryption in a simple way, and a blog post from Osvaldo Juan Encinas Moreno of the Venezuela Chapter, who highlights the importance of digital education for those in vulnerable groups.

These are only a few examples of how we all depend on encryption every day of our lives. Effective encryption is key to secure online communications, from financial transactions to healthcare. It is the foundation upon which a trustworthy Internet is built.

Got an interesting story about how encryption is a critical part of securing out day-to-day experiences safe online? We want to hear it! Write to us at encryption@isoc.org.