We're big fans of encryption here at Komando.com. That's because hackers love to snoop on unencrypted Wi-Fi and Internet connections to steal your information or redirect you to malicious sites. Encryption scrambles your communications and keeps hackers from seeing what you're doing.
In fact, most of the security scares with smart gadgets over the last few years came down to their Internet connections having little to no encryption. So, encryption is kind of important; learn how to encrypt all of your communication. However, it might not be quite as private as we had hoped.
Researchers at Ariel University in Israel have demonstrated that by examining encrypted traffic for certain data patterns, they can tell what operating system, browser and even programs you're using. In some cases they can even figure out what website you're on.
True, they still don't know exactly what information you're sending and receiving, which means they can't see your password or bank account number. However, knowing what software you're using lets them target you with phishing attacks and viruses that are more likely to work.
Or think about a phone support scam. Right now, a scammer can call and say they've detected a virus on your computer, but can't tell you what version of Windows you're running or the browser you use. That makes it less likely you'll fall for the ruse.
However, if they could tell you the version of Windows, the browser and what site you're currently looking at, you might actually believe they can know you have a virus. You'd be more likely to let them on your machine.
Of course, this isn't the first time security researchers have found that encryption leaks information it shouldn't. And that's a worry. As we speak, Google and other major tech companies are trying to get every website to use encryption. Google's Chrome browser now warns you when you're using a site without encryption. Firefox has even said that in the future it will ignore websites that don't have encryption turned on.
So, what does this mean for the future of encryption on the Internet? Not much at the moment. The plan to encrypt everything is still a good one. It will eliminate a lot of basic threats that people encounter online and make hackers work harder.
Still, it's a good reminder that just because something says "encryption" on it doesn't mean you should trust it to keep hackers out. WEP encryption on Wi-Fi is old and useless. Some hard drives have encryption that's easy to beat. So, do your research and find out how good an encryption is before you trust it with your security.