Cyber-squad: UNR journalism professor hosts RSJ crypto-party aimed at teaching encryption

News – The Nevada Sagebrush By Marcus Lavergne

Marcus Lavergne/Nevada SagebrushUniversity of Nevada, Reno, assistant journalism professor Ben Birkinbine helps a small group of students set up the Pretty Good Privacyemail encryption program on their laptops at the Donald W. Reynolds School of Journalism on Friday, April 29. Services like PGP are aimedat tightening security around personal data and obstructing hacking and data theft.

More than 200 billion emails were sent every day in 2015, according to the independent technology market research firm The Radicati Group, Inc. The number is expected to grow to a little less than 250 billion emails a day in 2019. Those emails are being sent by more than 4 billion email users.
The large number of those emails flying through cyberspace isn’t an issue by itself, but in a time where cybersecurity is becoming increasingly delicate due to hackers and data-stealing technology, those emails can result in negative consequences like the theft of personal information and spam accounts.
For journalism students at the University of Nevada, Reno, the chance to begin fortifying their email security came last Friday. Reno’s first crypto-party took place in the Donald W. Reynolds School of Journalism. The event was hosted by assistant professor Ben Birkinbine, who believes there are several steps people should take in protecting their personal data.
Birkinbine’s guest speaker, assistant computer science professor Ming Li, revealed that out of all the email traffic soaring through their servers, 99 percent is unprotected.
“Whenever one of the servers is compromised, attackers can see and steal information,” Li said.
Strong evidence that private data isn’t all that private came in 2013 when actions by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden disclosed the government surveillance of U.S. citizens. That caused a shift in the focus on data protection.
According to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey, 25 percent of U.S. citizens who heard about the surveillance programs reportedly changed the …

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