With pervasive and invasive surveillance all around us, it is not necessary for you to play the victim. While many simply throw up their hands and say there is no escape, others are taking concrete action to keep their personal and private data out of the belly of the beast.
Your communications and personal data belong to you and you alone. You wouldn’t allow anyone into your home to just snoop around, so why would you tolerate unauthorized government snatching of everything you say in messages, email or phone calls? And, if the government isn’t bad enough, hackers and other miscreants are waiting to steal your personal data every chance they get. It’s time to get smart and tough about this, and start taking responsibility for our own data security.
The sad fact of intrusive surveillance is that virtually everything you do on the Internet ends up in government hands. That is, every email, text, message or phone call, including the content from all social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden forever put this to rest with his now-verified revelations of massive NSA data collection efforts. The Electronic Frontier Association published a detailed timeline of NSA Spying on Americans.
Smart Internet programmers are starting to fight back, and you can too! In this article, I will give you several options and techniques to make yourself as invisible as possible to prying eyes. The answers lie in sophisticated new encryption techniques that make what you send and say incomprehensible to anyone other than the intended recipient.
Signal by Open Whisper Systems (Click here to view)
This is a free messaging and phone app for iPhone or Android only, and the only such app that was endorsed by Edward Snowden himself. High-level encryption cloaks everything you type and say, and can only be deciphered by the intended recipient. Messages are transmitted directly to the receiving party, and thus are never stored on a central server. The company boasts that even they cannot see what you do, and they specifically state that no government or private entity has a “back door”.
Signal incorporates a built-in calling feature that scrambles your phone call so that eavesdroppers hear only unintelligible gibberish.
Use Signal to replace Facebook Messenger, SMS texting, Skype chats and calls, and other messaging apps.
Wickr (Click here to view)
This free app provides top-secret messaging that encrypts everything. Like Signal, messages are fully encrypted and are never stored on a central server, but rather are delivered directly to the recipient’s phone or computer. What sets Wickr apart is that each message has a sender-defined expiration date that causes the message to vanish when its time is up. When I say “vanish” I mean just that – It disappears from both sender and receiver and then gets “shredded” on the respective devices. Because deleted files can easily be recovered after the fact, “shredding” overwrites the deleted files with ones and zeroes so that recovery becomes impossible no matter who attempts it.
Wickr does not provide encrypted calling, but the company claims that it is working on such a feature.
Use Wickr to replace Facebook Messenger, SMS texting, Skype chats and other messaging apps. It is totally conceivable to combine usage of both Wickr and Signal to provide a comprehensive messaging/calling solution. Use Signal as your default messaging/calling app, and then use Wickr when you need top-secret encryption that leaves no traces of your messages.
StartMail (Click here to view)
Forget free email services like Gmail or Yahoo! They are free because they harvest your data and sell it to the highest bidders, including the U.S. government. StartMail will cost you $59.95 per year, but it provides automatic PGP encryption to every email that you send, so that only the intended recipient can view it. There is no “back door” because the company and servers are based in Europe, where privacy laws are much tougher than they are in the U.S.
Use StartMail to replace any email service, especially those that say they are “free” but really are costing you everything.
If you are just looking for an email with a better privacy statement than Gmail, then take a look at FastMail, which is operated by Mozilla; note that Fastmail is not encrypted, however.
StartPage (Click here to view)
This is a private search engine that does not save your searches nor identify you to the targeted search entity. Rather, it uses a “proxy server” to recast your search as not coming from you. This effectively hides your identity.
All of the popular search engines and especially Google, record every search you make on the Internet, including personal identifiers like your IP address. Your IP address, of course, pinpoints you as specifically as your phone number, social security number, driver’s license number or home address. Once you are duly identified, these snoops keep 100% of your activity in permanent files. According to StartPage,
“Those searches reveal a shocking amount of personal information about you, such as your interests, family circumstances, political leanings, medical conditions, and more. This information is modern-day gold for marketers, government officials, black-hat hackers and criminals – all of whom would love to get their hands on your private search data.”
If you want to defeat Google, et al, then use StartPage search engine.
LocalActivist.net (Click here to view)
This is a fully encrypted and private network for activists who work in close-knit groups. It provides tools for communication, collaboration, document management and file sharing for each specific group. It is member-supported and subsequently does not run ads or collect any marketing information from your activities.
If you are actively involved in your community to turn back the tide of Technocracy (including Agenda 21, Sustainable Development, Smart Grid, Smart Growth, etc.), then don’t conduct your business in public. When you use services like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc., nothing is hidden from your opponent’s eyes. During WWII, a popularized intelligence phrase was “Loose lips sink ships.” Accordingly, LocalActivist’s motto is, “What you say here, stays here.”
It is up to you to practice “clean computing” on all your electronic devices. Always use a good virus protection program to protect against viruses, malware and phishing attacks. If a clandestine keylogger program is running, then every keystroke you type is being sent to someone with bad intentions for your data. Keyloggers are hard to detect and remove, but there are resources that can help, for instance, this article on the KimKomando web site.
Always use strong passwords and remember them with a password manager, such as 1Password or Dashlane. Both are easy to use and will store all of your passwords and vital information in encrypted format.
A word about credit cards. Whenever you make a local purchase with your debit or credit card, the details of your purchase, including your location, are being recorded and tracked. When you pay in cash, there is no tracking possible. Thus, when considering any local purchase, think about the wisdom of paying cash in certain instances.
A word about cell phones. Your cell phone itself becomes a very effective tracking device. When not at home or office, always turn off the wifi feature on your phone and don’t use apps that record or post your location information.
A word about public wifi. When you connect your phone, tablet or laptop to a public wifi (e.g., Starbucks, a restaurant or public library), be very aware that you are at risk of being hacked. If you are confident that you have the proper firewall, anti-hacking and virus software installed, then go ahead. If not, then don’t connect in the first place.
This is not an exhaustive look at Internet security, but it will take care of some of the more important issues. I suggest that you make a simple written plan of action, and take one item at a time to master it – then move on to the next one. Yes, there are potential inconveniences and habits that need to be changed, but they are far from insurmountable.
For every person who protects their Internet presence by taking advantage of the latest encryption technology, the Technocrat’s dream of total data domination falls a little bit shorter. So, start protecting yourself today and give a Technocrat a headache at the same time.