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Chapter 15
Email Privacy -- a Grand Illusion?

When you send an email message to a friend, you probably assume that random people won't be reading it. You could be right. But don't count on it.

Why not? First of all, most email is sent in the form of plain ASCII text, which means humans can read it. Encrypted text, on the other hand, requires a key or a supercomputer to decode into human-readable form.

Second, every email system has administrators who have unlimited access to all mail messages sent from, to, and through that system. It's possible to design a system that doesn't have this feature, but there aren't many. In fact, when you send an email message across the Internet, it often hops from server to server several times before it reaches its destination. As a result, it can be read by system administrators all across the country -- possibly the world.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. To make a system work, the sysadmin needs this kind of power. If a message is incorrectly addressed, the sysadmin can open it up and figure out who should get it. If messages


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