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If I send messages using OTR & GPG, will my ISP or some surveillance agencies know that I'm using them? "Look, he's sending an encrypted message. He must have some important secret. Let's go rubber-hose him!"


Obviously, if they see the content of my messages (e.g. emails), they will know that they are encrypted. But I'm not sure whether they can do that or not. So let's suppose they can't see the content (and perhaps they can only see the traffic).

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if yoiu physically know your communications-partners and are able to share e.g. public keys'n' stuff face-2-face, you might want to investigate into i2p or retroshare as tools for communication. – that guy from over there Jan 26 '14 at 9:22
@thatguyfromoverthere Thanks, I will check them. It would also be great if you could explain how is that related to this question. Thanks again. – Little moon Jan 27 '14 at 5:12

The simple answer is yes - your ISP can very easily see that you are sending an encrypted message. In many countries this is not an issue for two reasons:

  • most of the major webmail providers now use SSL so everything is encrypted
  • there would be too much data for the ISP to sift through it all, so they target specific threats (if you are one of those threats then sorry, your data is theirs...)

I understand that you feel like the ISP could target you, or that using encryption will make you stand out from the crowd, so there are ways to make encryption less obvious - however they are more effort:

  • ASCII Armouring as carried out by GPG leaves a header and footer describing the encryption used, but you could remove this if you wanted. The problem is that the data sent still looks like a large block of random data...which is still probably suspicious to your ISP
  • Translate every word you want to send into another word (using a one time pad if necessary) - then your message will be made of words, so probably won't trigger any filter looking for encryption (however a human interceptor reading it might get suspicious)

Your activity should be based around your threat model:

  • Are you a target for your ISP to waste effort on?
  • If not, would using encryption make you stand out from the crowd enough that you become a target?
  • etc
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Using SSL is not a problem in this country. So, would my GPG-encrypted email or OTR message seem no different to them than using SSL? – Little moon Jan 24 '14 at 23:55

If I send messages using OTR & GPG, will my ISP or some surveillance agencies know that I'm using them? "Look, he's sending an encrypted message. He must have some important secret."

Yes. The NSA and their friends are reported to look for and archive encrypted messages wherever they find them, presumably on the basis that if it is not encrypted, they can check if it is suspicious right away, but if it is encrypted they had better keep it in case it is important later. Before Snowden, we kind-of knew that they could do this, and presumably did do this whenever they had a good reason. But now we know they do it all the time and against everyone, without any reason at all.

So yes, if you talk about suspicious stuff you will come under (mild) suspicion. If you use encryption to hide what you are talking about you will also come under (mild) suspicion.

You won't be rubber-hosed without a particular reason, because the rubber-hose guys need wages, whereas just storing all your email and browsing history forever is very cheap. If you become a problem, they have got your complete web browsing history though (so they can blackmail you by exposing your porn/gambling/drug/other habit), as well as the capability to plant incriminating files on your computer pretty much at will.

But don't worry! They won't use any of that against you.

You have nothing to hide.

Because you are a good citizen. You don't commit Hate Crime. Or Thought Crime. Or Pre-Crime. You are not a subversive, are you? You don't have opinions they don't like - or if you do you keep them to yourself! You don't cause social unrest do you? You don't talk to people and make them dissatisfied with the current situation. You don't get involved in political campaigns to change government policy.

So you have nothing to fear.

Big brother is watching you. But Big Brother loves you.

And you love Big Brother, don't you?

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