Latest posts by Alvin Bryan (see all)
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PRISM is backed by a billion-dollar government funded agency. If home-based hackers can get to your personal information, they can too. It is not easy to stay clear of NSA spies, but there are a few methods that work well together. Using a VPN on top of existing computer security systems and avoiding services known to report to the NSA is a good start. With tools to keep your privacy in the face of NSA snooping, you get blocking hacker attacks as a bonus.
Privacy has become a more pressing concern in the US especially since new of the NSA’s spying programs leaked out. Many are actively seeking ways to keep their private information private. Businesses, various organizations, privacy enthusiasts and a multitude of concerned netizens make up the majority.
Millions of Americans are already victims of identity theft each year. Three quarters of the breaches also result in direct financial loss. Now Americans face the additional domestic threat of falling victim to NSA snooping. Privacy and freedom are two extremely important values to the American people. We are not likely to let go of them without a fight. One problem, though, is that some of us aren’t quite convinced that we are in any real danger.
Misconceptions about NSA Snooping and Hacker Threats
First, many believe that their information is of absolutely no consequence to anyone. This is a treacherous misconception. Let’s turn this around and take it from the other extreme. Remember the Miranda which reads, “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” Now this applies to suspected criminals. The second belief is that we are not doing anything criminally wrong. Take another look at everything you do online. Now imagine what a conspiracy theorist could make of that information. When someone wants to make connections, they will make them any way possible. Now let’s go to the more sensible middle ground and we will find that there is always something we would rather other people or the government didn’t know. It could be just because it’s personal, not fit to share, embarrassing, or potentially incriminating. Whatever it is, it is of consequence. The main point is that if you want it to be private, it should remain private.
Third, we live in the age of advanced information technology and are dealing with very real cyber threats. It is always safer to assume that we will not be the next victims. We satisfy our fears by convincing ourselves that we have enough computer security. Yet hackers of increasing skill levels often with no more than a home computer and a bunch of friends they met online continue to multiply and successfully breach billions of Internet capable devices. They successfully steal billions of units of data and billions of dollars every year. Fourth, most people have no idea what kind of information is unknowingly being extracted and stored by all the websites they visit. Many companies make it their business to sell this information for market research and advertising purposes. Your data could be making its rounds on the Internet without your knowledge, just waiting to be plucked by a hacker from an unprotected data stream.
With NSA snooping, we are dealing with a top secret and very well funded and staffed agency of the US government. They take personal information where and when they choose. They are freely given this data by at least 9 huge Internet companies that we know of. These companies provide tens and even hundreds of millions of Americans with online services. Email, web searches, instant messaging, phone lines, social media, VoIP, and more widely used and vitally important communications systems are being monitored. They snap their fingers and out go your emails, chats, posts, calls, and whatever else they want to have a look at.
And what happens to all that data that gets sent off to the NSA? We are assured that there is no need for concern regarding the safety of that information. But some prefer to err on the side of caution. If the government preferred to keep NSA snooping under wraps, they may also have elected to keep mum about where it is stored and how it is used. So far they haven’t explained very much about it. And back to hackers, if they can breach other government databases, there is a risk they can get to wherever all that information is stored. It would be a triple jackpot for them. Something needs to be done to protect ourselves against such a massive invasion of privacy that threatens the security of our personal data.
Protection from NSA Snooping
NSA snooping involves both swiping data from traffic flow and taking it off of company servers. A combination of safe online practices can better secure data so it doesn’t get picked up. Avoiding the first type of NSA snooping can be remedied by accessing the Internet through a VPN service. The second can be dodged by restricting usage to services that are not involved in data sharing. In both cases, a strong privacy commitment from the companies providing the services is the most important factor. And if you can stay away from NSA snooping, you are that much safer from hackers as well.
A VPN routes all the traffic sent from a personal device through a private tunnel. The data sent is encrypted and safe. NSA snooping on fiber cables and infrastructure will not pick up this encapsulated data. The VPN will also protect the data from any other spies who are using similar methods of catching data streams. Be aware of where you are sending your data, however, since you may be sending it to an entity that has made a deal with the NSA. A VPN can protect you at public or open WiFi hotspots, at home, at the office, and on any other type of connection.
A VPN can secure your devices so that communication cannot be stolen. This also depends on your provider, however, and the applications you run that may contain malicious software. The VPN will provide you with an alternative IP address through a secure server, so your browsing and search history will be safe from tracking. Information entered on unsecure or monitored websites or through services that are involved in NSA snooping, however, is not. Choose a service that also has a strict no-logging policy on your personal information, or better yet one that does not ask for personal data.
Limiting your service providers to those who truly care for the privacy of user data combats the second NSA snooping method known as PRISM. Avoiding companies that are known to provide the NSA with user data, for instance, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, is the first step. All services associated with these companies are potentially collecting and sending your data to the NSA. Choose more secure and private services to work with and transfer over. Use alternative private search engines, email, phone, and online storage providers, preferably those that use encryption to protect your data. Stop using popular social media platforms, too. It is difficult to maintain contact with a network on a small platform, but smaller circles are more secure because they are not good targets with lots of information up for grabs.
A keen interest in credit card information is something that the NSA and hackers have in common. You can opt to always use cash, but this rules out online transactions. Explore other secure methods of shopping online that do not require a credit card, like virtual currency and prepaid gift cards. This way you keep your transactions and credit history private. There may not be as many shops that support these alternatives, but it’s a toss-up between being secure and being searched.
By employing these methods and a number of other safe Internet practices, the chances of your information being taken are greatly reduced. Do some additional research on safe browsing habits and services that stand by your right to privacy.