4-Step Computer Security Upgrade
Learn to encrypt your files, secure your computer when using public Wi-Fi, enable two-factor authentication, and use good passwords.
In light of the news over the last couple of days, it has become painfully clear that Google and I have different understandings of the meaning of the word evil. I’m referring, obviously, to Google’s famous “don’t be evil” slogan. But according to the Washington Post, the NSA is mining data “directly from the servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.” (Notably absent: Twitter; Dropbox is listed as “coming soon.”)
The PRISM program was apparently authorized by secret courts based on secret interpretations of secret laws. (It was also, apparently, PalTalk’s big shot at fame, since nobody knew what it was before this story broke.)
The NSA is getting similar information from your cell phone carrier, apparently.
How can you avoid this? You can’t, really. The only way out of this is to go back to using private couriers to communicate. What you can do is call your representatives in Congress and tell them you don’t appreciate them letting the NSA snoop your data.
If you want to stop using the above services, that’s fine. It’s easy enough to switch your mail server back to a private hosting account, although I have zero confidence that will avoid the NSA’s prying. Oh, and don’t email anyone using a Gmail or Hotmail/Outlook.com or Yahoo! Mail account, either. Firefox is still a great browser, and now looks to be more private than Chrome. Oh, and you’ll need to switch to a Linux-based operating system, since Microsoft and Apple are on the NSA’s list of friends. Ubuntu is a good option.
But don’t kid yourself. The NSA is also building a huge data center in Utah to suck down every packet of information from the Internet that it can find, encrypted or not. It will just save the heavily-encrypted stuff for later, when its processing power catches up to the encryption algorithms. The NSA (with the approval of both political parties and all three branches of government) is determined to get your communications data, and it doesn’t really matter what you use.
(By the way, it seems unlikely that every lawyer in the country has just inadvertently waived the attorney-client privileged, so let’s not get sidetracked.)
So call your representative. Dismal as the prospect may seem, the only real option here seems to be the political one.
(image: Electronic Frontier Foundation)