How to protect yourself from NSA spying & snooping

Ever since it has been made public that the US National Security Agency has a surveillance program named NSA Prism, that is checking out data packets moving into and outside of USA, the security and privacy concerns have increased not only in the country but all over the world. Though people do not like the government spying in the name of terrorism or whatever, it is happening nevertheless. This article tells you how to protect yourself from NSA spying & snooping, and other types of government surveillances. It does not claim it will protect you hundred percent but still, it will improve your chances of better privacy while you are on the Internet.

Protect yourself from NSA spying

Protect yourself from NSA spying

Protect your Data – NSA Spying

The first thing that you need to do to prevent NSA spying in the US or any other government surveillance elsewhere is to encrypt your data. There are few good options available that assist you in encrypting your files so that when you send them across the Internet, the spying agencies could not understand the contents. You can use TrueCrypt or better still, VeraCrypt. Read our review of VeraCrypt to know more about the successor of TrueCrypt.

There are some other good alternatives as well. TrueCrypt is outdated and is not being updated anymore. Instead, the developers of TrueCrypt have taken to VeraCrypt, and since it is open source, you do not have to pay anything for it.

If you are using Microsoft Windows 7 or above, the built on encryption system of the operating system may also help protect yourself from NSA spying to some extent. BitLocker on the Go will help encrypt your files on the disk. If you send them over the Internet without decrypting them (i.e. after locking the drive or USB device), it would be tough for spying agencies to break the encryption. However, I would recommend VeraCrypt as it is much more reliable encryption.

There are certain paid encryption software as well – if you are willing to spend money on privacy and security of your data traveling on the Internet. If you are using paid encryption software, you get to keep the private key to yourself and thus, it will be much better protection against NSA or other spying agencies. You will have to do some research on the Internet to see which paid software would suit your needs within your budget. If you are using any such paid software and wish to share with others, you are welcome to use comment boxes for sharing the software name and features.

This post will show you how to Opt out of Data Tracking & Targetted ads on the Internet.

Encryption of Emails to prevent NSA spying

While the above section talked of individual files that you send as attachments to emails or for storage in the cloud, the body of email too has to be encrypted as it too may contain important information. There are not many programs that offer you free encryption for email text.

I remember using Comodo Certificate Manager that allows you to download a program that offers to encrypt and even digitally sign the emails you send. Such software will send two emails to the recipient when you send the latter an email. The first email from the software company would be a link to the email stored on their servers while the second mail would be a key that allows the recipient to view the email. To solve the problem of storing encrypted emails on third party servers and sending links plus key to the recipients, you may ask the recipients to install similar software on their computer. That way, the software would automatically decrypt the emails when they are received in the entirety.

Since emails also travel as data packets, it would be hard for NSA to pick up random packets and try to break the encryption as they’ll have to gather all packets and then use different decryption techniques to break the encryption. The method does not guarantee that your emails will always escape spying agencies but will sure reduce the chances of being broken.

If you cannot find Comodo Certificate Manager or if you find it difficult, you may use OpenPGP or JumbleMe, etc. services to encrypt the emails. Remember that the connections to the email servers too need to be encrypted so you need to use email clients that can use add-ons to encrypt the email text. Outlook, Thunderbird and almost all email clients support an end to end encryption. Also, remember that the popular email services do not provide much of encryption if you are working on emails using the browser as they cannot be integrated with likes of OpenPGP or Comodo email encryption. If you check emails from different devices, you may want to use portable versions of Thunderbird, etc. so that you do not have to install the clients on every device you use.

Use Social Media carefully to protect yourself from NSA spying

It is said that if it something secret, do not post it anywhere on the Internet. That is the best line of defense against NSA spying or other spying agencies interested in what you are doing on social media. I cannot ask you to stay away from social media as they’ve become an important part of our lives. But you sure can choose what to post and what to keep secret. The best method is to communicate directly with the “friends” you wish to share things with instead of posting it for all to see. I’d advise against “checking in” updates and providing access to social sites to your location.

Hide your Identity

This is yet another method that will provide some better protection against spying agencies. Use a virtual private network (VPN) that offers encryption that does not drop connections in the middle of a browsing session. You may also use browsers such as TOR (though there have reports that NSA found out a method to track you using reverse tracing). Such browsers create a maze so that even your ISP cannot figure out what you are up to. Coming back to VPN, there are plenty of free VPNs that would serve your purpose of hiding your identity from NSA. My personal favorite is a free version of Spotflux in case you need a recommendation.

VPNs encrypt the data leaving your computer until the data reaches their servers. From there, a tunnel is formed where data is almost inaccessible due to security measures provided by the VPN service providers. Thus, you will be safer against spying.

Make use of Detekt, a free anti-surveillance software for Windows.

This explains some methods on how to protect yourself from NSA spying. It also helps people in other countries where governments spy on their netizens. You might want to also take a look at this post – How to prevent being spied on by the Government.

Posted by on , in Category Security with Tags
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

6 Comments

  1. ReadandShare

    I detest even the theory of broad NSA surveillance. But in practice, it’s the commercial entities like Google that I want off my back even more.

  2. Dan

    Here’s something re even the best encryption used: currently, all browsers except Internet Explorer and Opera (version 30.0.1835.59) are vulnerable to the “Logjam” attack, which can allow government or ISP to downgrade encryption so they can understand communications…the latter of course not dependent on government or security reasons. Regardless of why, when encryption is so lowered any lucky sole, or very dedicated organized set of, hacker(s) would be able to wireshark information as well…usually hackers are “up” on where to “go fishing”.

    There is currently a site to test if any browser is or isn’t vulnerable to Logjam; I found it at weakdh dot org.; it’s similar to the ones testing for POODLE and FREAK vulnerability. An interesting thing about websites themselves which patch to prevent their use in lowering encryption is that if a browser isn’t also patched, more web pages will become non-loadable, as the security of the site and a vulnerable browser don’t match…so browsers like IE and Opera are good to have around.

    Bruce Schneier recently said in this month’s “cryptogram” that 66% of vpn traffic can be easily read due to Logjam; I’ve only tried this with Cyberghost, but it seems Cyberghost is one vpn where using any browser at all in it results in the “Good News!” outcome at the Logjam browser test site…and opens safely encrypted browser options beyond IE or Opera. (Cyberghost seems to have free versions for Windows, OSX, Android, and iOS, but no longer for Linux).

    Hope this contributes something toward hardening encryption from casual hackers, cheers!

  3. Arun Kumar

    Thank you for the inputs, Dan. I will check also the Cyberghost VPN if it has a free version.

  4. Dan

    All people and readers of TWC are always most welcome…we all need to depend on each other’s experiences in these internet times. If anyone does try Cyberghost (and there might be other vpn’s protecting all browsers, I just can’t get around to all of them), I just installed it on another Windows 8.1 Dell 64 bit…you may have to restart Cyberghost one or two times before getting a prompt to install a security certificate; before then, browsers will still be reported as failing Logjam test, after install, all reported “Good News!” (in my case, FF, Chrome, Chromium, Maxthon). Lastly, do remember to go to “startup” and disable Cyberghost from starting when Windows starts (the vpn default is to start automatically, so if you prefer manual start automatic needs cancelling).

  5. bluedragon2k9

    One thing that help also is switch to linux.It is a known fact now that microsoft has got so much spy stuff in windows 10.They also now are updating windows 7 and 8 with there spy gear.

  6. Jmc

    Exactly! They’ve crossed lines that should never be crossed, drafting
    ToS and Privacy Policy agreements that essentially require us to give
    them ownership rights to our (P)ersonally (I)dentifiable (I)information,
    simply in exchange for the use of a service they provide via the
    internet, such as an email service.

    And don’t for one second
    think that we owe these companies these rights to our information! We
    already pay through the nose for internet access, a portion of which (if
    it isn’t being done already) should go to the technology companies that
    provide these “so-called” free services.

    The ISP’s already make
    a killing off of us through their over-priced bundles and
    packages——-and to think that a portion of the ISP’s profit should
    not somehow go to these tech companies, as a monetary means for keeping
    their prying eyes out of our business, is really the real crime. Why you
    may ask?! Because it makes it easier for these tech companies to
    blackmail, coerce, and extort us of our privacy and our own personal
    information, because they feel they need something in exchange for the
    service they provide. They already make billions upon billions of
    dollars——–and yet they want to feel entitled to extorting us of our
    own personal lives?!—Palease!

    They should never even be
    allowed to request our (PII) to begin with, nor should they even be
    allowed to draft policies that force us to hand this info over to them
    on a silver platter. This current system in which such takes place is
    not only completely outrageous and denigrating, but it also puts our
    identities at risk of theft because more of our information is “par for
    the taking” simply because advertisers want it (because really, the
    billions of dollars of profits they make every year just isn’t enough
    for them)—Palease!!!!!!!

    Privacy is intrinsic to the concept of
    liberty——-If you infringe upon that——-you take away our
    fundamental rights because you are taking away human dignity.

    A
    redistribution and new laws should be put into effect that pertains to
    the oligarchy and the corporate thugs——-not ordinary citizens!

    We have the right to protect that which rightfully belongs to us——-period!

    These
    companies are manipulating the circumstances so that they can continue
    to exploit us in every way possible without regard for our personal
    health, well being nor privacy. They should all be ashamed of their
    disgusting and reproachable behavior and every last one of them should
    be hauled into court and given harsh sentences for the millions of
    crimes they’ve already perpetrated upon humanity.

    As Bruce Schneier famously said:

    “Privacy
    is important because without it, surveillance information will
    be abused: to peep, to sell to marketers and to spy on political enemies
    — whoever they happen to be at the time. Privacy protects us from
    abuses by those in power, even if we’re doing nothing wrong at the time
    of surveillance. We do nothing wrong when we make love or go to the
    bathroom. We are not
    deliberately hiding anything when we seek out private places for
    reflection or conversation. We keep private journals, sing in the
    privacy of the shower, and write letters to secret lovers and then burn
    them. Privacy is a basic human need.”

    “A future in which privacy would face constant assault was so alien to
    the framers of the Constitution that it never occurred to them to call
    out privacy as an explicit right. Privacy was inherent to the nobility
    of their being and their cause. Of course being watched in your
    own home was unreasonable. Watching at all was an act so unseemly as to
    be inconceivable among gentlemen in their day. You watched convicted
    criminals, not free citizens. You ruled your own home. It’s intrinsic to
    the concept of liberty.”

    “For if we are observed in all matters, we are constantly under threat of
    correction, judgment, criticism, even plagiarism of our own uniqueness.
    We become children, fettered under watchful eyes, constantly fearful
    that — either now or in the uncertain future — patterns we leave
    behind will be brought back to implicate us, by whatever authority has
    now become focused upon our once-private and innocent acts. We lose our
    individuality, because everything we do is observable and recordable…”

    “…Too many wrongly characterize the debate as “security versus privacy.”
    The real choice is liberty versus control. Tyranny, whether it arises
    under threat of foreign physical attack or under constant domestic
    authoritative scrutiny, is still tyranny. Liberty requires security
    without intrusion, security plus privacy. Widespread police surveillance
    is the very definition of a police state. And that’s why we should
    champion privacy even when we have nothing to hide.”

    —Excerpted from Bruce Schneier’s article on “The Eternal Value of
    Privacy” at the following link: [
    https://www.schneier.com/essays/archives/2006/05/the_eternal_value_of.html
    ]

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