How To Avoid NSA PRISM – Tips To Stay Private

Though we have many articles on how to stay private on the Internet, it seems the NSA PRISM has shed water on all that. Of course, those articles will help you stay private – your ISPs and Data Centers won’t know what you are doing. Thus, local law enforcing agents and detectives may also be not able to access and intercept your work. But when it comes to NSA PRISM, can you avoid it? Yes… and No! In my opinion, getting around NSA PRISM is more of luck (or coincidence as many call it) based rather than application specific. We do have many methods to stay private on the Internet. Some sites say VPNs can help but tell me how NSA can leave them out if they can force Google into giving away your details?

Avoid NSA PRISM – Tips To Stay Private

This article talks about methods to stay private in the era of a new Big Brother – the NSA PRISM – where many of the data gathering centers (Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN and what not) have already been co-operating with NSA officials. Although these companies have denied their involvement or stated their position on PRISM, the fact remains that people are now suspicious.

Read: Top ten programs for privacy and security on the Internet to stay secure.

What is NSA Prism - Internet Content Monitoring System

Would You Want To Go Back To The Caves?

I won’t name them here, but some of the very reputed websites gave advice that made me comment – get Internet disconnected, go back to caves and use jungle language to communicate. Would you agree if I ask you to leave or rather delete all of your social media accounts? Would you agree if I ask you to stop using phones for interacting with your peers? It was a pretty reputed website that carried an article asking people to leave social media sites – all of them. For me, it is not acceptable.

I live by the social media – Facebook, Twitter, Plus and LinkedIn. They are the places where I gain information about all I am interested in – news, technology and society etc. Why should I give up all that just because someone in the NSA is (maybe) watching my activities?

After an analysis of all possible options, I did find out there is no way you can escape PRISM. Maybe the government may stop the program as it stopped a similar program in the past, but will continue collecting data without your knowledge. In that case, we’ll need another Snowden to come out and tell us our data is being tappedand our privacy is at stake.

‘How To’ Tips To Avoid NSA Prism

These are some methods that I took into account to evaluate if at all one can avoid NSA PRISM. What actually is happening in PRISM can be stated as follows:

  1. US NSA is looking for certain ‘keywords’ in data packets that are being routed via US-based data centers. Most of the privacy providers have their data centers and servers located in the US if I am not wrong. Few are offshore to provide faster service to customers/users.
  2. US NSA is looking at calls – call origination number, called number and duration plus frequency of calls to establish if a person can be a criminal. Don’t we as friends talk to same people again and again, often getting emotional enough to drag a call? What about couples who spend/waste more than half an hour asking the other one to disconnect first? Going by what NSA says, if it is only the frequency and duration to determine criminal intentions, most of them would end up in prisons. Of course, they will be listening to the conversations if they find anything suspicious

Now that we have in mind how NSA PRISM operates – or what they told about its working, let us see what our options are.

[A] Use A Proxy

A proxy will hide your original IP address. But that does not mean the original IP cannot be traced. If any system has the ability to break the proxy mechanism, it is the NSA! But you can still give it a try. TIP: Before using proxy, turn off login notifications in Facebook and other sites else you may lose your accounts.

[B] Use Encryption

What are you writing? If it is about blowing up some place in or outside the US, you need to get a good encryption software. If it is just a regular mail, the feds will get bored reading your email. Also, as with the first case, NSA is something that can and will break into any kind of encryption as it has privileges to military grade software.

Please do remember that NSA PRISM is about scanning data packets based on keywords. If you are a normal Internet user, chances of you using those keywords in your emails would be pretty less. Thus, the probability of your emails getting around PRISM database would be higher.

I do not think encryption will be of much help here. Rather, it will create problems for the recipients. They too will have to install the same encryption program to decrypt your emails. Again, you can give it a try as not every time would the data packet land up with NSA PRISM servers and hence will provide you security against lower levels of scanning.

[C] Use A VPN

A VPN provides you a safe tunnel to route your data. Again, the data packets are encrypted and sent to the recipient or website via US-based servers. Well, most of those data packets are likely to move through the US-based servers. Nevertheless, India, China, Iran and other countries too are monitoring Internet traffic for “SECURITY PURPOSES” so your privacy is again at stake.

And when the biggies of Internet – Google, Facebook, Microsoft, etc – gave in to NSA, what is the guarantee that your VPN provider will not provide them with your data. In this case, since all your communication is being routed through the VPN, imagine what you just gave to the NSA PRISM.

[D] Be Careful With What You Post On The Internet

You might think you are not doing anything illegal so you need not fear PRISM or any other surveillance methods. If that is the case, you need to know that the rules and regulations in different countries are different. Plus, there are many laws in each country/county/region which we are not aware of. Now suppose you go ahead and post you donated XYZ sum to some agency and turns out the agency is blacklisted, cops will be knocking your doors!

[E] Other

The Opt Out Of PRISM website will suggest you some alternative software. See if you find something of interest there. The Dark Side Of The PRISM Firefox addon will warn you if you visit a PRISM website.

How To Avoid NSA Prism: Summary

The above is not to frighten you. Do NOT get paranoid. Do what you are doing on the Internet, but stay in control of what you are posting. The same applies to phone calls. I won’t recommend cutting down on talk time, but do make sure you suppress the feeling of saying anything that might be used against you. US NSA PRISM, Indian ICMS though meant for containing terrorism, may be deliberately or unintentionally misused. Stay in control, stay safe!

Space constraint makes me stop here. The bottom line is – You cannot avoid NSA PRISM, but sure, you can minimize the damage.

If you have any ideas on how to get around NSA PRISM and similar surveillance methods, please share with us.

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Arun Kumar is a Microsoft MVP alumnus, obsessed with technology, especially the Internet. He deals with the multimedia content needs of training and corporate houses. Follow him on Twitter @PowercutIN

7 Comments

  1. Ed

    Realistically, there is no way around PRISM. Like you said Proxie’s and VPN’s while they work, ultimately the originating IP can be traced.
    Encryption is a good idea but with military grade software can be cracked, the idea of it though IF you do use encryption is to make the pass phrase or key as long as possible, using both lower and upper case letters, numbers along with special characters. These days, nothing I upload and store on any cloud services gets uploaded without encryption with at the very least a 56 key or pass phrase encryption, if they want it, even with military grade software it will still take years to decrypt.

    I like how that pretty much everyone that writes on this subject tries to justify it. There is absolutely no justification for a tool that despite what YOU believe, is and will be used to invade the most private corners of EVERYONE’S lives. You can believe what you want but what the U.S. and U.K. are doing is the biggest breach of Constitutional and human rights ever.
    They tell you it’s an anti – terrorism tool and you all believe it, THEN, if and when terrorism is ever wiped out they will then tell you another lie …….. and you will believe it. The bottom line is that this is a tool for these governments that will be used to invade everyone’s and anyone’s privacy whenever they choose to.
    This is EXACTLY what Edward Snowden is trying to tell everyone, why else do you think the United States Justice Department is after him so badly? it’s not because he is lying …….. wake up people.

  2. Arun Kumar

    In short, all these surveillance methods being used are a breach of our constitutional rights. Be it PRISM or ICMS or anything else, they cannot be stopped. Even if they say they’ve stopped snooping, I don’t think I’ll believe them. Also, did it ever work? I never heard of any major terror act being stopped due to Internet interception. Only small time offenders got it.

  3. Ed

    They say they foiled a plot to bomb NYSE on Wall street using PRISM, whether it’s true or not who knows? the bottom line is we as citizens have let them get away with this and only we as citizens can stop it, only problem is that the masses here in the U.S. have become so complacent in their lives that they believe just about anything.

  4. UncommonSense

    The only valid point that you make that is useful is [D] Be Careful With What You Post On The Internet All of the other content is just ranting. While I agree that our rights are being trampled upon, the reality is that this has been going on for decades. The only difference is that the agency would collect the data, request a warrant/subpeona based on the collected data, then proceed with arrest and prosecution. Whereas now, they do not need the facade of going through the proper series of events.

    The (anti)Patriot Act started this nonsense and was a great way for intelligence agencies to force through their agendas in the wake of the 9/11 tragedies. This is about way more than people whining about who’s reading their email or their social media posts, it is setting a precedent that will be very difficult to stop in the near future when more invasive measures are enacted.

    The powers that be are relying on the complacency of the general public who are preoccupied with posting photos of the food they eat, babies and sharing jokes online. Just remember, there is already a dossier of data attributed to you, cross-checked and matched to all of your online accounts and activities. Don’t kid yourself into thinking otherwise. How do you think these programs make it through the proof of concept stage and implementation stage?

  5. Ed

    I agree 110%, what people do not realize is that ALL U.S. internet traffic passes though PRISM at one point or another, the same for it’s U.K. counterpart. What I type here is going to pass through PRISM.

    They “say” that all information collected inadvertently gets “purged”. We all know nothing on the internet never really is “purged”, it is there forever.

    The reality of PRISM whether one realizes it or not, is in the event that you ever get in trouble for anything be it a traffic ticket or worse and decide to fight it, any official could gain access to all of your internet and phone records to use against you for a character based defense, so if you mistakenly click on a porn link or warez link or anything else of the sort, realistically it is ALL logged by PRISM and it can and will be held against you in a court of law.

    Like I said, this is what Edward Snowden was and is trying to tell the world, personally I believe him otherwise the NSA and DOJ would not be chasing him around the globe. We will all find out the complete truth about PRISM after whatever country gives him asylum, he personally holds over 200 classified documents concerning PRISM, this is what scares them, because after he is claimed by another country for political asylum, the jig will be up.

  6. huzedat

    You wrote: “They “say” that all information collected inadvertently gets “purged”.”
    I don’t think you meant “inadvertently,” that is comparable to “accidently.” What NSA said is that their records are purged after so many days, unless it is suspicious. That only means their copy is destroyed, not the original.

    You wrote: “The reality of PRISM whether one realizes it or not, is in the event that you ever get in trouble for anything be it a traffic ticket or worse and decide to fight it, any official could gain access to all of your internet and phone records to use against you for a character based defense, so if you mistakenly click on a porn link or warez link or anything else of the sort, realistically it is ALL logged by PRISM and it can and will be held against you in a court of law.”
    Actually, that information would not come from NSA. It would come from the same sources that NSA uses. No surveillance organization will keep information about any mundane person – they aren’t in the target group. However, phone companies, ISPs, credit card companies, banks, and nearly every other business establishment has to keep records for several years. [If you miss a car payment, credit rating companies can keep that information for 20 years – the seven-year statute does not apply to them.] If you are investigated, the law enforcement agencies will contact the FBI to see if you have a record. If you haven’t done anything to draw their attention, you won’t have a record. So, law enforcement agencies would then turn to the same people surveillance agencies use – companies that maintain the “originals.”

    You wrote: “otherwise the NSA and DOJ would not be chasing him around the globe.”
    This is not true. The nature of the information is not considered; it is what he did, not what he took. It is similar to your knowing someone who is peddling drugs to children and killing that person. You would still be charged with murder. You may feel you were justified and were doing a public service, but it was still against the law. The nature of the person you killed would be considered by the court. The same with Snowden, what he did was against the law. The nature of the information would be considered by the court.

  7. Jack

    I think the PRISM-Proof Program (known as Operation Blackcipher) will protect you for a big part from PRISM and cyber criminals. Following Snowden is a good encryption the best security for your personal files. I searched on DuckDuckGo how to stay away from PRISM and I found: http://www.prism-proof.net

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