Early last month, NSA analyst Edward Snowden risked his freedom, citizenship, and well-being to come forward with information that would forever alter the internet security landscape.
His candid report damned the US and UK governments for participating in one of the most extensive domestic surveillance programs the world has seen to date, and ever since the news dropped many digital users have been left wondering if they can feel secure during such an uncertain time.
The documents in question were entrusted to UK-based news organization The Guardian, as part of a calculated series of releases designed to keep the news fresh in people’s minds and prevent it from being washed out in one cycle. They go into extensive detail, covering everything from the scope of the server farms to the channels we’re being targeted through, and even which companies and corporations are building pre-installed backdoors into their software to enable easy access for whoever they feel the need to snoop on.
With such a massive infrastructure dedicating billions of your tax dollars to secretly take notes how you spend the other 70% of your money, it might seem a little hopeless to ever expect to be anonymous on the net again. But while it’s true the ability to go off the grid now looks to be exceptionally more difficult than before, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
The very same files Snowden gathered which revealed the sight and scale of the operation also point to several of its weaknesses, including networks like Tor (short for The Onion Relay), certain types of VPN-relays, and downloadable applications that can mask your internet presence as long as they’re utilized properly.
Silent Circle is the number one solution for encrypting communications at home, the office, and anywhere you might be in the world. With VPN servers that span the globe, end-to-end messaging, and 24/7 support, this all-in-one option is a favorite for the business savvy and security elite among us.
OTR Messaging protects your messaging client with encryption, authentication, and dual-client backups which guarantee you are communicating with the user on the other side and nobody else.
Tails is an entire operating system dedicated solely to anonymity both on and offline. This lightweight Linux-based build runs only the basics, but does so under a thick veil of secrecy that was built from the ground up to keep intruders out while you stay plugged in.
will help you to encrypt every nook and cranny of your digital life once the lines are resistant to taps. Texts, voice calls, photo albums, web history, and emails will be safely locked up behind a wall of complex math and resource-intensive cracking software.
BleachBit is a free, easy-to-use application that scrubs all the temporary files, history, and internet clutter that can collect dust in your hard drive if left to rot around for too long.
If there’s one thing we must remember about the NSA and their British counterpart is that although they are one of the highest-funded branches of each respective government’s surveillance arms, they are also limited to what they can and can’t devote their time and energy to. Even if that limit is sky high, it still exists, and the more of us who take the time and necessary precautions to protect ourselves from their prying eyes, the better.
However this begs the question; am I now on some sort of list, simply for researching and reporting on the topic? After going through dozens of news stories either directly or closely related to the leak and the fallout of Snowden’s files, will I be placed on a collection of metadata-based names that were plucked from the web and profiled by the real world equivalent to SkyNet?
If so, I’m happy to be on it. We’re the people fighting the good fight, and we must be staunch in our dedication to denying the DNS decryptions of one of the most nefarious acts of homeland terrorism since pre-9/11 America.