Who you lookin' at?

The people’s private message dead-drop

Email and texting are great modern conveniences, but they were never intended to be secret. Nowadays, with hackers dumping stolen messages on the Web and the government recording everything, these methods are decidedly risky for sending any information that must remain truly confidential. In fact, email was designed to be like an electronic equivalent of a postcard that can be read anywhere along the way by anyone who comes across it.

Encryption with software, despite many forms being compromised by the NSA and others, is still held up by Edward Snowden and many security experts as the best means of securing private communications. But to do it right is hard, requiring preparation and a kind of discipline. If there were only some simple way of harnessing current available technology to permit an easy exchange of private information between individuals…

And indeed there is. Southwest Cyberport presents Burn After Reading, free for anyone’s use. Burn After Reading is a secure private message dead-drop. It cleverly uses the same Internet technology already built into everyone’s Web browsers that enables safe purchasing online to allow private communications between two parties.

All you need do is visit the Burn After Reading page and write your message into the field. You can have it send a link to the message for you, or you can send the link the page generates yourself in your own email to the other party. Either way, once the person gets the link all that must be done is to click on it to visit the page to see the confidential message you set up for her or him.

The recipient can only view the contents while the window remains open. As soon as the communication is received and the window closed, the message is gone (unless the recipient copies it). No one else can see it because the page is instantly deleted from our server, and once it’s gone, it’s gone for good.  There is no technical way to then retrieve it.

We do log some information (time and IP address of pickup) for troubleshooting and to prevent abuse by spammers, but that’s it – no content is saved. Each link can be used one time only: if anyone steals the link and opens it before the recipient gets there, the recipient will know it right away as he or she can’t access it.

Note that to in order to keep this method secure, each message can be only be sent to only one recipient and no files can be attached.

But it’s free for anyone’s use, SWCP member or not. This open service is just one more way Southwest Cyberport continually strives to make the Internet experience safe and enjoyable for everyone.