With the recent news about the NSA tracking all telephone calls made from and within the U.S. and with the news about Prism tracking the content of communications made overseas, we have to start taking measures to protect ourselves from our own government. Here are some services which can help you do that.
→ Problem – Cloud File Storage
Google Docs, Dropbox, and all other cloud solutions for data storage are suspect. The government can get a subpoena — or maybe already has — to get access to any of your data.
Solution 1 – Boxcryptor
Boxcryptor encrypts the data in transmission and while on the cloud storage farm. The data itself resides in a folder within Google Drive or Dropbox, but is encrypted. You use Boxcryptor in addition to Google Drive or Dropbox to protect the data stored on those services. It is free for basic service (but file names will not be encrypted).
Solution 2 – Spideroak
Spideroak encrypts your data in transmission and while on their disks. Since the data is encrypted before it leaves your computer, neither the data nor things such as file names are visible on the server. It is free for up to 2 GB of storage (although, if you sign up using the link at the beginning of this paragraph, you get 3 GB free). For $10 per month or $100 per year, you can have 100 GB of storage.
→ Problem – Web Browsing
Whenever you use a search engine, unless you remember to start a “private” session, your search terms and your IP address will be retained by the search company.
Solution 1 – Startpage
Startpage provides a front-end to Google which makes the search appear to come from them and not you. They also have ways to use them as the default search engine for various browsers. This allows you to search to your heart’s content without anyone tracking it. Remember to clear your browser history, as Startpage cannot protect you from yourself.
Solution 2 – Tor Browser Bundle
The Tor Browser Bundle bounces your searches off a network of anonymous servers and thereby prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location, and it lets you access sites which are blocked. The Tor Browser Bundle lets you use Tor on Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux without needing to install any software. It can run off a USB flash drive, comes with a pre-configured web browser to protect your anonymity, and is self-contained.
→ Problem – Chat
With Prism, we now know that the NSA can monitor any chats you do over Skype or Facebook with anyone outside the country. Who knows what other subpoenas may be in force that we don’t know about (yet) that allow the NSA to track chats inside the country.
Solution – Off-the-Record Messaging
OTR Messaging lets you send encrypted messages that cannot be read while in transit.
→ Problem – Telephone Calls
We now know that the NSA tracks every call you make. Seeing who you call, and who they call, and who that person calls, allows the government to classify people into groups and to target people based on calls made, even if they themselves never made those calls.
Solution – Silent Circle
Silent Circle lets people to make encrypted phone calls via their smart phones. Calls from Silent Circle users to other Silent Circle users are free. Calls to people who do not use Silent Circle are not encrypted, of course, but the NSA call record just shows a call from Silent Circle to the recipient and not from you to them.
It’s sad that we have to take steps like these to protect our basic privacy, but such is the world in which we live today.