We unfortunately live in the age of surveillance, when agencies like the NSA and FBI push and cross the boundaries of unconstitutional actions.
This means that everybody needs to take steps to protect their data. Obviously, there is no such thing as total protection, and a determined individual or organization with a lot of time and money on their hands can break any security if they want.
But you can make your data and communications so hard to access on the Internet that it will deter the bad guys. The harder it is to access your information, the more likely hackers, spies and other cyber pests will go elsewhere.
Protect Your Data
Here’s a quote from somebody who knows a lot about cyber security and how to get around it: ex-NSA hacker Edward Snowden: “Encryption works. Properly implemented, crypto systems are on one of the few things you can rely upon.”
Encryption simply means scrambling information so it’s hard to decode. Governments have been doing it for well over a century and the good news is that there are encryption software programs anybody can take advantage of. They include:
– Red Phone — which lets you send encrypted voice communications between two Android phones. Both users have to deploy the app to get the protection.
– Text Secure — which lets you send encrypted text communications over Android phones.
– PGP or Pretty Good Privacy — a commercial product available from a company called Symantec. It isn’t perfect but it will protect you from amateur hackers and most criminals. There are also some free open-sourced variations of this product available including one for Windows.
– There are also encrypted mail services such as Hushmail.com and Silent Circle. The problem is that these organizations can be forced to divulge data to the FBI or NSA through court orders. A similar service called Lavabit was forced to shut down because it refused to give the FBI access to Edward Snowden’s email account.
– Experts believe that the best method is to use two or three encrypted services. A system called STARTLS is hard to track. All the information on services that use these is encrypted.
– Some more alternatives are coming. The governments of nations like Germany and Brazil are talking about setting up encrypted email services for their citizens, and in the future it might be possible for Americans to take advantage of those. There are also foreign email systems such as NEOMAILBOX which is based in neutral Switzerland. The Swiss have a long history of protecting privacy including that of American citizens.
2. Use HTTPS as much as possible
While many websites you surf use “HTTP,” the alternative HTTPS – used by such websites as banks and financial institutions – encrypts the data, making it much harder to hack. Use a browser plug-in called HTTPS Everywhere to help.
3. Avoid services from companies known to cooperate with the NSA and FBI
This includes Gmail, Hotmail, Twitter, AOL, Yahoo, Skype, Apple and other large American technology companies.
This White Paper from the Press Freedom Foundation provides more advanced information. It mentions some of the techniques that journalists like Glenn Greenwald use to protect their data. In today’s world everybody is going to have to follow some of these steps to protect their privacy.
Meanwhile, computer programmer John McAfee says he plans on releasing a $100 anti-NSA device called “D-Central” that will protect citizens from detection. Off The Grid News will monitor its release date.
4. Use a VPN service
NSA keeps an eye on IP addresses, which indicates that it pries on searches and browsing we made. If you don’t want to get tracked, the best option is to hide your IP address, which will not reveal your original identity to the world.
Tor Browser is good at protecting your browsing activity, but I would personally recommend the use of VPN on top of Tor for ensuring complete privacy.