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Encryption 12 May 2020

Encryption: The Digital PPE We All Need

By Natalie CampbellSenior Director, North American Government and Regulatory Affairs

In the midst of a global pandemic, Internet security can be a matter of life and death.

Think of how critical the Internet has been to address the COVID-19 public health crisis. It has allowed half the world fortunate enough to have access to stay on top of critical public health updates and stay in touch with loved ones at a safe distance. Some can even continue activities like distance education, work from home, and access vital telehealth services.

But what if it weren’t safe to do these things?  Would the world be as willing to follow social isolation measures?

Encryption keeps billions of people and countries secure online every day. It protects the integrity of news online, keeps your banking information out of the hands of criminals, and allows communications over messaging and videoconference platforms to stay confidential.

That’s a good thing. With people spending more time online than ever, cyber criminals are targeting the increasing amount of private data and commercially or government sensitive information traveling across the Internet. We’ve already seen proof in the corresponding rise in criminal activity over the last few months. The United States Federal Bureau of investigation, for instance, said cybercrime reports have quadrupled during COVID-19.

What’s even more frightening? Several governments worldwide are trying to undermine the encryption technologies that help protect people, industries and countries against these crimes.

Every one of these attempts to weaken our digital security – often some form of backdoor access proposal to give third parties access to encrypted data – is a major concern. Action by one country to weaken encryption threatens us all.

With global public health efforts driving more of our daily activities online, it’s up to all of us to make sure governments enable us to use the PPE we need to protect our digital health.

That’s why the Internet Society is proud to join forces with the Center for Democracy and Technology and Global Partners Digital to form the steering committee of the Global Encryption Coalition.

Together with over 30 civil society members, we’ll grow this global movement to include organizations, technologists, and corporations around the world working to promote and defend strong encryption policies and industry practices in key countries where it is under threat.

You can help. To celebrate the official launch of the Global Encryption Coalition on 14 May 2020, we’re hosting a global webinar event, “Health, Encryption and COVID-19: Keeping people and countries safer online.” This event will feature five webinars across the globe exploring how encryption helps people and countries navigate a global health crisis, and how we can stop proposals that could undermine the digital and real-life health and security of people and countries everywhere.

We’re already taking precautions to protect our health we couldn’t have imagined a few months ago. Let’s make sure we can use the PPE we need to protect our digital health as well.

Find out how you can do your part! Register for the Health, Encryption and COVID-19 webinar series today.

Image by Noah Matteo via Unsplash

Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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