By now, news of NSA spying on Americans, wiretapping private communications and creating vulnerabilities in private computer networks won’t come as shocker. Over the years, US intelligence agencies have gone as far as impersonating private entities such as Seattle times just sniff around real and perceived enemies of America.
Recently, the FBI has been pilling pressure on the US Senate to grant the Agency more powers to collects personal information without warrants. NSA on the other hand has been busy filtering each and every datable located within US under a program known as Prism as reported by the Washington post.
The extent of PRISM surveillance program is not known, but from the article published by the Washington post, its clear NSA has been wiretapping databases including Google, Facebook, and Yahoo for the last six years. PRISM also taps on the high capacity optic fiber cables diverting internet traffic to NSA operated underground bases for further Analysis.
Ironically, many Americans are unperturbed by NSA surveillance programs with a whopping 56% in support of the rogue agency according to a recent research by Pew Research center. But even if you’re a friend of NSA because you think you have nothing to hide, you should be vehemently opposed to programs that encroach on personal space and create vulnerabilities that could be exploited by malicious actors on the web. In this article we discuss a few tips that will help your stay safe from NSA PRISM program and ward off other spy agencies targeting your private information.
Encrypt your Internet Traffic
Encrypting your internet traffic is the surest way to beat the NSA surveillance trap. Without the decryption Key, encrypted data become useless to NSA’s PRISM program. Currently, google offers end-to-end encryption, while Apple upgraded its encryption to keep off government agencies from their databases. But given Apple and Google’s long history of privacy scandals, you wouldn’t trust them to completely secure your data from NSA surveillance programs.
According to Erad Yoran, a member of the Department of Homeland Security Advisory Board for Command, Control and Interoperability for Advanced Data Analysis, companies storing data on the cloud should encrypt their data before submitting it to their services providers. In other words don’t trust Google, Apple or Microsoft to encrypt your data before storing it on the cloud. More importantly, don’t share the encryption keys with anyone.
Individual users should avoid storing sensitive information in obvious clouds such as Dropbox, SkyDrive and Google Drive. Notably, always use the secure https:// SSL protocol when traversing the web. Many website support the secure protocol (https://) but a majority will only use it on request. Https protocol ensures that communication between your browser and the website is encrypted. So as a common rule, never enter your private information on websites that do not supports Https:// security standard. More importantly, hardening your browsers to make it more resilient to security and Privacy issues is sure way to ward of spy agencies.
Disable web tracking from Your Browser
Ever wondered why tailored shopping ads seem to follow you on every website months after Black Friday? Well it’s because of web tracking. Every time you visit a new website, you leave behind a trail of digital footprints that are easily connected to tell so much about you. In the past Verizon Wireless and AT&T have be criticized for using super cookies to spy on Internet users for the purposes of targeting Ads. Other adverting networks and hopeful the NSA are also watching your every keystroke.
To avoid web tracking, go to your browser setting and disable third party cookies from being loaded on your current webpage. Secondly, search the web privately by activating the private mode in your browser. For Chrome users, accessing the web in incognito mode prevents Google from saving your search logs. Alternatively use browser extensions such as Ghostery, which will prevent ad agencies and search engines from tracking your webpages.
Secure all your Communication
Document leaked last year to the intercept by Edward Snowden revealed a clandestine project AURORAGOLD, used by NSA to tap into literally all cellular networks on the globe. Under operation Auroragold NSA sabotage foreign cellular networks using underhand methods including weakening encryption and using bugs. Auroragold targeted over 800 telecommunication companies under the GSM Association which spreads in over 220 countries in world. International Corporation such as Facebook, Vodafone, and Microsoft are also members of GSM, implying the NSA is literally listening to the world.
In this case, securing your phone conversation may seem difficult but rest assured it’s not entirely impossible. Thanks to KoolSpan, a company specializing in mobile encryption, it is now possible to secure your phone conversations using a mobile technology known as TrustChip. Koolspan CEO Gregg Smith describes TrustChip as all-in-one authentication and encryption technology that encrypts all information sent from one mobile phone to the other. American carriers AT&T is already offering TrustChip at a cost of $25 a month while other like Samsung partnered with Koolspan to diffuse the technology worldwide.
Lastly, protect your Instant messaging service such Google chat, Microsoft, AOL and Yahoo from NSA surveillance programs. Leaked documents show that NSA is able to wiretap Instant messaging (IM) networks and eavesdrop on private conversations. To ward off NSA and other spy agencies, use an Off the Record (OTR) chat extension to encrypt all your messages on IM networks. For OTR to work, users on both ends must have an IM software compatible with OTR such as Adium for Mac OS and Pidgin for Windows and Linux based operating Systems. OTM offers an end-to-end encryption to instant messages on IM networks.
Browse Anonymously with Tor
The Onion Router (TOR) is the reigning King of anonymous browsing today. The TOR network has defied spy agency across the world by allowing users to browse the web anonymously. Tor conceals your identity by encrypting and bouncing communications across several TOR servers. This makes it entirely impossible for spy agencies to trace the source of traffic or even the recipient. To the watching eyes, traffic is seen to originate from serval random nodes rather than from your PC. Past attempts to take down the tor network have been unfruitful. Tor is a free service, all you need is to download Tor browser Bundle an equivalent of Firefox of Chrome to allow you access the Tor Network.
Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Using a VPN is another smart way to prevent the NSA from encroaching on your personal space. Like the name suggests, a VPN establishes a secure private network on the internet that allows you to browse the web anonymously. A VPN conceals your identity by masking your device IP address and routing your traffic through VPN servers in your location of choice.
For Maximum protection against NSA PRISM program and other spy agencies in your country, opt for a VPN provider that do not keep logs. Without the Logs, your VPN provider cannot reveal your identity not even with a court order. A VPN will also enable you bypass internet restrictions and access blocked websites in your country. Click here for a list of the best VPNs that will help beat NSA (or any other govt’s spying acts) hands down.
Top/Featured Image: By nolifebeforecoffee / Flickr