Conversations about life & privacy in the digital age

Responsibly Bringing a new Cryptography Product to Market

Post Snowden, technologists have rushed a variety of “liberation tech” projects to market, making boastful claims about their cryptographic capabilities to ensure the privacy of their customers. These goals are noble but the results have sometimes been embarrassing.

We’re building a new crypto product ourselves: a high-level secure-by-default framework developers can use to build end-to-end cryptographic applications without writing crypto.

Here’s what we required:

  1. To be independently verifiable it must be open source
  2. Have a spec
  3. Have a threat model
  4. Have clear, well documented code
  5. Be audited by security professionals with a crypto background

In this post I’ll share how we’re going about #5. We’re committed to development in the open, including security review.

The first audit we could schedule was with 3 researchers from the Least Authority team. Among other reasons we chose them because they have deep experience building verifiable storage systems. For anyone in that market, Tahoe-LAFS is a must read.

Auditing is both expensive and hard to schedule, with leading organizations booked months in advance.  The best teams are not limited by their ability to sell their services but rather by their ability to hire and fulfill that work. Consequently there’s very little downward pressure on their rates.

To get the most from a security audit, it’s best to go in with the cleanest code possible. It’s like brushing your teeth before you visit the dentist. It’s impolite and ineffective to ask someone to puzzle over the subtleties of code you haven’t clarified [1].

We focused this first audit narrowly on a bare bones single-user (no collaboration or multi-user sharing) demo application built with the Crypton framework. Our goal was good coverage of the framework’s core fundamentals: account creation, authentication, and single-user data storage.

Unfortunately, at the time we could schedule the audit to begin, there were three issues that the Crypton team knew about but hadn’t a chance to fix or even document. The auditors independently discovered two of those three issues with a lead to the third issue (less severe) tagged [UNRESOLVED] in their report. Additionally they found three other serious issues unknown to the team. Overall, some of the best money we’ve ever spent!

Since the purpose of this post is to give clear expectations, I think it’s important to share real numbers and cleared this with Least Authority.

Zooko explained, “We gave SpiderOak a small discount on our normal price, and moreover we pushed back our other projects in order to get the work done for you first. We did these two things because we wanted to form a relationship with SpiderOak since you provide end-to-end-encrypted storage, and we wanted to support Crypton because it is end-to-end-encrypted and is fully Free and Open-Source Software.”

Our bill was $30,000, or about $5k/researcher per week.

We have a second audit with the nice folks at Leviathan Security, covering the multi-user features of Crypton, and we’ll share that report when it’s complete. In the meantime, here’s the report (rst, pdf) from the first audit by Least Authority.

Here are some of the resulting GitHub issues and pull requests to
resolve the findings. Issue B, C, D, and E.

The resolution for Issue A involves a switch to SRP based authentication. This was part of the longer term roadmap as it provides several additional benefits, but proved to be a nontrivial undertaking and that effort is still ongoing. Some attention is given to this implementation in the next audit by Leviathan Security.

Update: Zooko at Least Authority just published an article discussing their motivation for accepting the project.

Update 2: The originally published version of this post erroneously linked to a non-final draft of the report from Least Authority. That link is corrected; and the final audit report should say “Version 1, 2013-12-20″ at the top.


[1] Zooko shared a story about an experiment that was conducted by Ping Yee in 2007. The results of the experiment illustrate auditing challenges.

In short several very skilled security auditors examined a small Python program — about 100 lines of code — into which three bugs had been inserted by the authors. There was an “easy,” “medium,” and “hard” backdoor. There were three or four teams of auditors.

1. One auditor found the “easy” and the “medium” ones in about 70 minutes, and then spent the rest of the day failing to find any other bugs.

2. One team of two auditors found the “easy” bug in about five hours, and spent the rest of the day failing to find any other bugs.

3. One auditor found the “easy” bug in about four hours, and then stopped.

4. One auditor either found no bugs or else was on a team with the third auditor — the report is unclear.

See Chapter 7 of Yee’s report for these details.

I should emphasize that that I personally consider these people to be extremely skilled. One possible conclusion that could be drawn from this experience is that a skilled backdoor-writer can defeat skilled auditors. This hypothesis holds that only accidental bugs can be reliably detected by auditors, not deliberately hidden bugs.

Anyway, as far as I understand the bugs you folks left in were accidental bugs that you then deliberately didn’t-fix, rather than bugs that you intentionally made hard-to-spot.

The Crypto-Cherub Asks You: What Apps Should He Shoot Privacy Into?

We’re wildly, madly in love with privacy but we’re not keeping it a secret.

Many of you know we’ve spent a lot of the past year working on Crypton. And we believe it is the future. We plan to use it to build a new internet, and hope others will take its open source code to infuse their apps with privacy. We’re about ready to get started: our Crypton code just underwent two large security audits, of which we plan to share the results in the coming two weeks here on the blog.

There are also some other exciting things happening in the next few weeks. We believe strongly that in all conversations about data security, the cloud, and the future of the Internet, Zero-Knowledge privacy should be at the table:

On the cusp of these events, and in celebration of our passion for privacy this Valentines Day, we ask for your help, input and ideas. You always make us better and influence what we do. (Yes, we love you!)

What apps do you want to see our Crypto-Cherub shoot his privacy arrows into in 2014?

Tomorrow is ‘The Day We Fight Back’ against mass surveillance

In Matt’s Damon’s AMA on Reddit last week, he was asked:

Hey Matt, your amazing monologue about the NSA in Good Will Hunting is probably more relevant today than it was when the film was first released. How did you come up with that scene, and are you at all surprised by the revelations on the NSA from the information released by Snowden? 

Here is the clip from Good Will Hunting:

Matt’s reply:

“Well, the first thing to that monologue is it’s safe to say that is the hardest that Ben and I have ever laughed while writing something. We were in our old house in Hollywood, in the basement of this house writing this thing and we were literally in tears because this monologue kept building on itself. We wrote it it one night and kept performing it back and forth, and pissing ourselves laughing.

You know, I was unaware, as I think everyone was, that they had that capacity. Snowden is literally changing policy. These are conversations we have to have about our security, and civil liberties, and we have to decide what we are willing to accept, and he’s provided a huge service kickstarting that debate…”

If you haven’t yet heard, tomorrow one of those conversations about our security, civil liberties, and what we’re willing to accept – it’s called The Day We Fight Back. screen shot

“Together we will push back against powers that seek to observe, collect, and analyze our every digital action. Together, we will make it clear that such behavior is not compatible with democratic governance. Together, if we persist, we will win this fight.”



In the U.S.: Thousands of websites will host banners urging people to call and email Congress. Ask legislators to oppose the FISA Improvements Act, support the USA Freedom Act, and enact protections for non-Americans.

Outside the U.S.: Visitors will be asked to urge appropriate targets to institute privacy protections.

Global events: Events are planned in cities worldwide, including in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Copenhagen, Stockholm and more. Find an event near you.

Add the banner to your site now: Grab the banner code on They’ve built special plugins for WordPress and CloudFlare users and also have a special version of the banner that pushes people to call over email.

Will you join us? 

17 Top Tips for Protecting Your Privacy

Happy Data Privacy Day! Celebrated Jan. 28 every year, people are coming together across the globe to talk about the importance of privacy. Take a look at the conversation that’s been happening today on Twitter via the hashtag #DPD14 (or Facebook).

On Jan. 16 we asked our users – some of the best privacy experts in the world – to share their top privacy tips. We were overwhelmed by the response. Hundreds of tips poured in, and many of which them overlapped from multiple users.

We sifted through them & picked some of the top tips for protecting your privacy:

  1. Use Disconnect if not using Tor. – Daryl
  2. Use local full disk encryption everywhere, be it FileVault on the Mac, LUKS on Linux or Truecrypt/BitLocker on Windows. Especially true for Laptops. – Gordon
  3.  If you don’t like to give your email address to each service or message board you sign in, you can use services like or which give you a temporary and disposable email address.  -C (You can also use Gmail’s to track companies that sell your information, and don’t do any more business with them! – Gabriel)
  4. Use different passwords for different accounts and keep them in a password manager (LastPass, KeePass). For example, I use the cross-platform Password Gorilla (same encrypted database on a shared drive read by both Linux and Windows). Of course, backup  the password database file on SpiderOak. – Dusk
  5. Make full use of your password manager, have it generate long, random, unique passwords for all sites. Make sure the password protecting your password manager is very long. As in over 20 uppercase, lowercase, numbers, and symbols. has a good example of how to achieve such requirements in a sane manner (but DO NOT use the phrase “correct horse battery staple” as I’m sure that’s in a hacker’s common password list). Linux users check out the command `apg` and it’s “-a0″ mode to get pronounceable (for english speakers) random words. – Todd
  6. Never type important login information on a public computer. It may have a kernel-mode keylogger installed and you have no way to reliably check for its presence. If you can’t avoid doing it, remember to logout and when you get back home change the password you used. – D
  7. Beware of free wi-fi hotspots, remember to verify that the wi-fi network name is from a legitimate service. Avoid unsecured wi-fi networks. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN), when possible, which helps you to route your activity through a separate private network, more secure, while you’re on a public one. – B **Note: see our two recent posts: VPN, privacy and anonymity, and Guest Post: Can you trust a VPN to protect your privacy?
  8. Never disable your security software when playing games. Search for a “game mode” in your security software; you won’t be interrupted in the middle of a game, but you’ll be protected. – B
  9. Never leave your devices unsupervised. When you leave them, lock them and make sure the password you have set is strong. – Christian
  10. Third-party cookies suck. Turn them off in Chrome under Settings > Privacy > Content Settings > Block third party cookies and site data.
    On Firefox that is Preferences > Privacy > History > Use custom settings for history > Accept Third Party Cookies > Never (or from visited if you want to let sites you’ve been to save cookies on other sites. Tell sites you don’t want them to track you on Chrome: Settings > Privacy > Send a ‘Do Not Track’ request with your browsing traffic; Firefox: Preferences > Privacy > Tracking > Tell sites I do not want to be tracked. – Conor
  11. Use DNSCrypt and the DNS Servers at OpenDNS to secure your DNS traffic from eavesdropping. Use HTTPS Everywhere from the EFF to ensure your traffic with major websites is encrypted where possible.- John
  12. Use SSH keys & disable password authentication. Use GPG to encrypt emails. And use RedPhone app to encrypt phone calls. – Toby
  13. Adblock Plus is awesome and allows you to block Social Media Buttons and has special privacy filters to help keep your footprints clean! – C
  14. Stay informed. Treat security news as important. For example, Ars Technica has a dedicated security column Be aware of alternatives to the software (including webapps) you use and how easy it might be to migrate if neccesssary. See for a privacy/security focus. See for general options (where I found out about SpiderOak!). This is also relevant if you run a website, see for tips on avoiding silos. - David
  15. Treat the answers to security questions like passwords. If “Buddy” is a bad password (and it is), then using “Buddy” as the answer to a website’s security question of “What is the name of your first pet?” is also insecure. Use strong passwords AND strong answers to security questions. Courtesy of Facebook and other Internet sources, it is often easy to find the maiden name of someone’s mother. Never use your mother’s real maiden name as the answer to “What is your mother’s maiden name?” – A
  16. Use a Google Voice number that forwards to your cell phone for Craigslist anything. - Avaah
  17. If you’re not paying for the service, your privacy could be the payment. – T

Bonus: Probably the most important privacy technique I use today: Follow this blog. Not only does it give you updates on SpiderOak, but they occasionally recommend other software and companies like they did here: A List of Privacy-Focused Companies, Tools & Technologies. - Bryan

A huge thanks to all of you for your support, time and kind words you gave when writing in!

Want more tips? Check out all the tips submitted via blog comments over the past few weeks.

Is your data secure? Enjoy 28% off our completely private backup, sync and share. Discount runs until the end of January.

Are you a privacy pro?  Answer these 10 questions and to see how good you are at protecting your online privacy: (created by SpiderOak +

Learn more about Data Privacy Day.

We will share more of your tips in the coming weeks. Do you have anything to add? 

Privacy is something to be shared. Please pass it on!

Data Privacy Day Discount – Protect Your Data with 28% Off

Data Privacy Day SpiderOak 2014 discount promotionTomorrow, Tues. Jan 28 is Data Privacy Day.

This month we are raising awareness about the importance of protecting your data by joining the efforts of the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and hundreds of other organizations around the world. Read more about Data Privacy Day.

So help us celebrate! Enjoy 28% off all yearly plans for private backup, sync and share. This offer ends Friday Jan. 31 at 12 a.m. CST.

Already a user? Upgrading is easy:

  1. Login to your account.
  2. Go to Account tab at the top right.
  3. Select Upgrade Plan on the left under your name.
  4. Enter DataPrivacyDay in the promotional code field and select Update. When you see ‘Promo code DataPrivacyDay’ confirmed, select your plan size under Yearly Billing and click next. Congrats – you have 28% off!

New user? Welcome! Here’s what you do:

  1. Get started now and create your account.
  2. Download and install the client.
  3. Click  ‘Buy More Space’ in the client itself, or via the web portal (which you can only login to once you’ve downloaded the client). In the web portal, you will go to Account, and then choose Upgrade My Plan.
  4. Enter DataPrivacyDay in the promotional code field and select Upgrade.  Choose which plan you want under Yearly Billing. Congrats – you have 28% off!

Remember, store your data encrypted, and don’t give away the keys. What better way to secure your data than with this Data Privacy Day discount?

If you missed it, learn what you can expect from SpiderOak in 2014.

Happy DPD!

Privacy is something to be shared. Please pass it on.

Guest Post: Can you trust a VPN to protect your privacy?

Privacy by policy vs. privacy by design: At SpiderOak we always preach privacy by design, we don’t *choose* to not see your data, we just *can’t*.

Sadly, a lot of online services cannot take on that philosophy, simply because of how the internet works right now. This is the case of VPN. VPNs are a great service, but depending on what you want or need, they might have some drawbacks, as we commented on our VPN, privacy and anonymity post.

If after understanding the contents of that post, you still want to use VPN, you will want to use one that is run by someone or some company that is trustworthy, because they will *choose* to protect your privacy. We believe IVPN is a really good example of how this kind of services should be run, so without further ado, we continue this post with a few words from Nick from IVPN.  - Tomas


This article was written by IVPN’s Nick Pearson. IVPN is a privacy-orientated VPN platform, an Electronic Frontier Foundation member, dedicated to protecting online privacy.

For many years commercial Virtual Private Network companies have promised customers freedom from online surveillance and data retention practices. But with the government seemingly waging war on online privacy, is it really possible for a VPN company to protect its users – and how do you know which VPNs actually take online privacy seriously?

 How secure is a VPN?

 Firstly, any individual who has a critical need to avoid surveillance, such as political dissidents or anyone whose life may be at risk, should not rely on a single privacy tool to protect them – whether it’s a VPN, a free tool like The Onion Router, or I2P. In such scenarios, advanced set-ups, involving compartmentalization and isolation via a combination of virtual machines, VPNs and Tor, would be required (you can check out IVPN’s guide to advanced privacy solutions here). It’s also worth noting that even highly sophisticated set-ups probably won’t protect you from targeted surveillance by global-scale intelligence agencies, which can marshal a level of resources and expertise far beyond any individual or company.

 However, generally speaking, most potential VPN customers simply want to avoid data retention at the ISP level and circumvent internet censorship. In this case a VPN service would be sufficient. But only if the company running the VPN actually takes privacy seriously in the first place.

 Privacy policies

 For instance, most VPN companies shield users from data retention by allowing them to circumvent their ISPs ability to log their IP address and connections to other websites. By using a VPN your ISP can only see that your connected to the VPN’s servers and not the website that you’re browsing. But for this system to work, the user has to trust the VPN company not to log IP addresses and connections itself.

 The sad fact is many VPN companies – and indeed some of the most popular VPNs on the market – do in fact log and store customers’ data. Some VPNs will even retain this data longer than many ISPs. Perhaps even worse is that some VPNs are not upfront about their data retention practices and do not state in their privacy policies exactly what data they store and for how long (some VPNs don’t even have privacy policies).

 A VPN company should wipe its data logs regularly, ideally within hours of them being created, so that any requests for the data cannot be met. However, even if a VPN doesn’t store data, users’ privacy can still be compromised. Any company could be subpeoned by local authorities and forced into recording data on particular user. There are precedents for this, such as the Lulzsec fiasco, which saw a US-based VPN forced into logging data by the FBI. It’s therefore good to know what jurisdiction your VPN operates within, so you can get an idea of how local authorities behave toward them. This is a grey area, as there are no countries (that we’re aware of) that will protect a VPN’s right to not log data. All you can do is try to avoid those countries whose authorities have a track record in zealous online surveillance.

 What questions do you need to ask?

 So if you’re thinking of signing-up to a VPN service what questions should you ask in order to determine whether or not they take privacy seriously. Here’s a few suggestions.

 Do they have a privacy policy? This sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised to discover some VPNs don’t even have a privacy policy, let alone one that’s up to scratch. If they don’t bother telling you their approach to privacy, steer clear.

 How long do they retain logs? The vast majority of VPNs will log data for network troubleshooting purposes. However, there’s no reason to store data longer than a few days, unless the company is eager to comply with requests from authorities or from other third parties such as copyright holders. Ideally, a VPN should be wiping logs within hours. If the VPN doesn’t say how long it retains data then ask them directly. A good place to start is this list of VPNs that don’t log data.

 What country is the VPN registered in? Knowing what country the VPN is registered in will let you research the country’s laws pertaining to online privacy. As mentioned above, there are no countries that offer complete sanctuary for VPNs who don’t want to log data, but some are better than others.

 What other personal data will the company retain? It’s important to know whether a VPN can link your account to a real identity. Does the VPN require an address, or credit card information? Can you use a more anonymous form of payment such as Bitcoin?

 What will the VPN do if laws change? With governments around the world cracking down on online freedoms, it’s quite possible that VPNs could come under scrutiny. It’s therefore important that a VPN company notify its customers of any change in local laws, which may affect its ability to protect user privacy.

VPN, privacy and anonymity

There is a common misconception when it comes to anonymity and privacy for users and VPNs that we felt we should try to clarify.

When the goal for a user is to handle all their things as private as possible, or be completely anonymous, the most (seemingly) harmless little detail can make a tremendous difference and compromise every effort made.

So given this fragile balance of everything, lets start by the very first thing that needs to be clear, what does it mean to be anonymous online and what does it mean to have privacy.


If you are one of those readers who note every subtle use of words (I am not) you may have noticed that I said “be anonymous” and “have privacy”. That’s the first and one of the most important details: anonymity is not retroactive. Which means, if you know what you are doing, you are going to become anonymous from one point and only from that point that “property” of your identity will be valid. Before that point in time, you might as well have streamed a live recording of your whole life.

Being anonymous basically works as follows: there are certain countries that assign an ID number to all its citizens, so every person born in it can be reduced on paper to that number. If we remove that ID, we are left with all the other details (hair color, height, etc) that aren’t unique, but combine them and you’ll have what we might call a pseudo-ID. Which is quite close to be as good as the actual ID number. So being anonymous online implies that your pseudo-ID or identifying characteristics make you no different than a big enough group.

It’s basically like saying that you are called John Smith, and 90% of the John Smiths of the world have a certain skin color, hair color and so on, and you are one of those. If you are a John Smith with a hair color from the other 10%, you could dye your hair and you’ll be becoming anonymous from that point on (i.e. unrecognizable from the other billion John Smiths).

Being anonymous online basically means becoming a part of an even bigger group of “John Smiths”, so once you are anonymous you should be really complicated to locate in the world. But it’s also a lot harder to become.

You might use all the software in the world for anonymity, but at some point you might behave in a certain way (write a word more than another, or type at a certain velocity, or always appear online in the same time frame) and you will be blowing away the cover that you created.


Privacy works a little different, you can “enable” and “disable” privacy as you wish (if you know what you’re doing and you’re being careful). An eavesdropper will know you are you, but you can choose whether to let that person see what you are doing or not (hint: use HTTPS or HTTP).

Privacy is the concealing of data from people other than you. This data might be a file, or it might be what you are sending and receiving through your WiFi connection every second. Privacy is the door you close when you go to the bathroom, or rather, the door you choose to close. The main problem with privacy though, is knowing where those doors are and knowing how to close them properly.

The main argument against wanting privacy I’ve heard is “I have nothing to hide”. To which I say: do you let other people watch and record you while you’re in the bathroom?

So it’s a matter of boundaries and knowing that those boundaries cannot be broken. It’s knowing that even if you are being recorded in while your bathroom, that camera won’t be capturing anything worthwhile, i.e. the video will be all static. It doesn’t matter which camera you use, it’s not possible for you to see me where I don’t want to be seen. That’s “privacy by design”, but we’ll talk about it more in another post.

How do VPNs work?

So now we got to this VPN things. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. The idea behind it is not really complex: when you open your browser and enter an URL like and hit the return key, your computer starts sending “network packets” to some other computer, which in turn sends them to some other computer, which in turn… well, and so on, until it reaches one of the computers behind the URL you want to access. There, it reaches the content you asked for and goes all the way back to your home computer. Jumping from host to host in the middle.

Now say you are in a cafe and they have WiFi, if you connect to it and start doing internet things, your “network packets” will go first to the WiFi router and then to the big chain of computers we discussed. So if someone is “standing” in the WiFi router, they can see what you are doing (or part of it). “Oh! Mary is accessing her GMail account”.

Connecting to a web server without VPN

If you use a VPN, what you are doing is basically presetting the first computer your “network packet” will reach once it goes out of yours. Well, not exactly right, but the VPN server will be the first computer that will understand what you want to do. So now the person standing in the router can only say “Oh! Mary is accessing this computer” (which will be the VPN server), and that’s all they will be able to see.

Connecting to a web server with VPN

If someone is “standing” in the VPN server, they will have the same power the person standing in the router in the non-VPN scenario has. But may be the only person standing there is you, because it’s your computer at home acting as a VPN server, or the computer of someone you trust. Which is great! right? You don’t have to trust all the random coffee lovers that might sit right next to you in that particular day in that particular coffee shop.

What does a VPN give its users?

So VPNs sound really neat, and indeed they are. You can control an important portion of how you are being seen by the outside world. But be careful! “outside world” in this case means something along the lines of “random people in the same coffee shop as you”, not “everyone in the whole wide world”.

VPNs give you the chance of taking a shower and only your husband or wife can open that bathroom door, and that’s ok, because you truly trust that person, you choose him or her.

What does a VPN NOT give its users?

Well, what if your significant other lets somebody else inside? That would be an enormous betrayal of your trust!, but it is possible, is it not?

VPNs work kind of in the same way, the people behind the VPN server are the ones in control. If you play your cards right (i.e. use HTTPS all the time), they won’t have complete control, but they will still have some.

Privacy and anonymity do NOT go hand in hand with VPNs, and that’s the end of the story. If you are looking for those two particular words, you must not trust a VPN. If someone tells you “you will be completely anonymous, you’ll have VPN running all the time”, that’s a lie. You’ll have this really neat and handy service called VPN running, and it’ll “save” you from a lot of thing, but it won’t anonymize you, it will just give you some privacy, SOME.

The problem with privacy is that it’s not a binary state, it’s not an ON/OFF switch. It has different scales of ON and OFF. So what do you want to protect? Ask yourself that multiple times, answer it carefully, and then and only then decide whether VPNs give you the privacy you want or not.

This is too much information, just tell me how to maintain my anonymity and privacy!

Well I’ve got bad news for you, being truly anonymous might even be called an art. It’s really hard, it has a lot of layers. So if you want to be truly anonymous, I suggest you start reading about all the ways you can compromise your anonymity. Read about how to attack anonymity so you’ll know how to defend yourself. But first things first! What do you want to protect?

For privacy, things are a bit easier. You just need to be careful what software you use and how. Pick software or services that have privacy as their main goal. Always maintain your paranoid alarms in a healthy level. Do not give your trust away easily. You’ll want to use services that use cryptography in some way, they might be using it wrong, but that’s a good start at least. You don’t want to use a service that the only privacy related thing they have is the privacy policy.

So, what do you want to protect?

And Now: a SpiderOak Video Singalong (12 Days of Privacy)

“On the 12th Day of Privacy, SpiderOak gave to me….”

For those of you who would like to see a slightly embarrassing and quite silly compilation of SpiderOakers singing what we’ve deemed The 12 Days of Privacy*, then this is for you! We have more than 50 employees all over the world, and this is but a selection of them – from our developers, to customer support, to sales and marketing folks, and yes – even our co-founders. (If you make it through all four minutes – you deserve an award.)

But seriously, thanks for watching! We had fun.

Meanwhile, for the rest of December, you CAN in fact nab 25% off all yearly plans. Here’s how.

What lyrics would you include in the “12 Days of Privacy”?

Happy Holidays! 

*Disclaimer: We do know the 12 Days of Privacy typically begins on Christmas, but we chose to celebrate it before the holidays.

12 Days of Privacy SpiderOak

Privacy: The Year and the Word

You can imagine how tickled we were yesterday when named ‘Privacy’ the word of the year. They wrote, “The discussion of privacy – what it is and what it isn’t – embodies the preeminent concerns of 2013.”

Word of the year

Not to toot our own horn but at the beginning of this year, our executives, marketing team and PR firm sat around a table and got very clear on our message. As a result, we released this on January, 28th, calling 2013 The Year of Privacy.

Of course we couldn’t predict the Snowden disclosures about the NSA surveillance, the Google Glass release, all the changes in privacy policies that got users in a tizzy, or the Snapchat snafu, but what we have known for some time now is privacy is the best form of security.

Check out this cool info-graphic on The Year in Privacy.

Privacy in a digital world is not easy and it certainly poses some interesting challenges and contradictions. Look no further than the immediate criticism received due to naming ‘Privacy’ the word of the year…

“Today, just visiting the homepage of sets 90 cookies and replicating the method from the Wall Street Journal investigation (including reading the blogpost on ‘privacy’ being the word of the day) yields 198 cookies, according to The Washington Post’s research.” — Click here to read more.

As we look to 2014, it is our mission to continue protecting our users’ privacy, developing more ‘Zero-Knowledge’ cloud technologies, and pushing privacy further and further into the web.

Happy holidays and cheers to privacy!

A List of Privacy-Focused Companies, Tools & Technologies

We are always on the look out for other services and products that share our love of privacy.

What are other privacy-focused companies, tools and technologies you would add to this list?


  • Silent Circle — The world’s most secure solution in mobile privacy. Peer-to-peer encrypted texts, phone calls, video calls, and file transfers from your mobile device.
  • SecretInk — A platform for sending secure messages that self-destruct immediately after reading through email, SMS, or any service you like.
  • WhisperSystems — Focuses on creating easy to use privacy enhancing technology. Projects are free, Open Source, and tend to be oriented around the mobile environment.

*RedPhone – Provides end-to-end encryption for your calls, securing your conversations so that nobody can listen in.

*TextSecure – Encrypts your text messages over the air and on your phone. It’s almost identical to the normal text messaging application, and is just as easy to use.

  • The Guardian Project – Creates easy-to-use open source apps, mobile OS security enhancements, and customized mobile devices for people around the world to help them communicate more freely, and protect themselves from intrusion and monitoring.

*ChatSecure – An instant messaging client for iOS that integrates encrypted “Off the Record” messaging support from the libotr library. It uses the LibOrange library to handle all of the AIM (OSCAR) functionality and the xmppframework to handle Jabber/GTalk (XMPP).

*Orweb – The most private and anonymous web browser on Android for visiting any website, even if it’s normally censored, monitored, or on the hidden web.

  • Tor — A free software and an open network that helps you defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security.
  • Disconnect – Offers private browsing and search.

*Disconnect 2 allows you to visualize and block the invisible websites that track you.

*Disconnect Search is a specialized VPN that lets you search privately using your favorite search engine without logging searches, or any other personal information.

*Disconnect Kids is an app that stops data about your growing and app activity from ever leaving your iPhone or iPad.

  • SelectOut – Helps companies become more transparent in their operations and improve their practices while giving users the information that is relevant to manage their privacy online and make their own decisions.
  • PrivacyFix — An online privacy dashboard that provides powerful browser add-on and mobile apps that scan for privacy issues based on your Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn settings and take you directly to those settings you need to fix.



  • GnuPG/GPG – Allows you to encrypt and sign your data and communications, features a versatile key management system as well as access modules for all kinds of public key directories. GnuPG is a common line tool with features for easy integration with other applications.
  • OpenSSL – A robust, commercial-grade, full-featured, and Open Source toolkit implementing the Secure Sockets Layer and Transport Layer Security protocols as well as a full-strength general purpose cryptography library.
  • GnuTLS – A secure communications library implementing the SSL, TLS, and DTLS protocols and technologies around them. It provides a simple C language application programming interface (API) to access the secure communications protocols as well as APIs to parse and write X.509, PKCS #12, OpenPGP and other required structures. It is aimed to be portable and efficient with focus on security and interoperability.


  • Free Software Foundation (FSF) – A nonprofit with a worldwide mission to promote computer user freedom and to defend the rights of all free software users. FSF promotes the development and use of free (as in freedom) software and documentation – particularly the GNU operating system – and by campaigning against threats to computer user freedom like Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) and software patents.
  • Open Technology Institute (OTI) – Supports open architectures and open source innovations. Strengthens communities through grounded research, technological innovation, and policy reform.

Don’t forget, this month is No Knowing November! Privacy should be shared. Let us know how you best manage your privacy. #NoKnowing