Engineers Plan a Fully Encrypted Internet: Responding to reports of mass surveillance, engineers say they’ll make encryption standard in all Web traffic.
In response to the public outcry over mass Internet surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA), the engineers who develop the protocols that underpin the Internet are deep into an effort to encrypt all Web traffic, and expect to have a revamped system ready to roll out by the end of next year.
The effort, by the Internet Engineering Task Force, or IETF, an informal organization of engineers that changes Internet code and operates by rough consensus, involves HTTP, or hypertext transfer protocol, which governs information exchanges between the Web browser on your phone and computer and the servers that hold the data of the website you are visiting.
Leaked documents brought to light by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden suggest the NSA routinely harvests and stores huge amounts of information from major cloud computing platforms and wireless carriers. Today, much of the Web traffic between your device and Web server is not encrypted unless websites choose to use a variant of the HTTP protocol called HTTPS—which includes an encryption step, called transport layer security. This is commonly used by banks, e-commerce sites, and by some big sites, including Google and Facebook. (If a website’s address starts with “https://” it already uses encryption.)