Fresh documents reveal that the NSA is spying on your internet chats through a highly secretive operation known as PRISM (much like PRISON). Here’s how you can go about protecting your privacy.
The NSA utilizes the cooperation of major corporations in order to ‘team up’ and gather all of your information — even in real time. They are able to see everything you write through Facebook, Google platform tools like Google Talk, Skype chats, Apple, and other top companies. So what can be done? Well, first of all we need to find alternatives to these top internet juggernauts.
Chances are you may have already figured that this day would come when it’s open knowledge that these massive corporations have been shoveling your information into the government privacy furnace, but perhaps you weren’t sure the best course of action. Let’s get into the very first line of defense against privacy-crushing corporations and the government that feeds upon your intimate conversations online.
Securing Your Personal Chats
As of right now, the leaked documents detail how the NSA is targeting the ‘big guys’. Google and Facebook, for example, hold upwards of 90 percent of the real ‘bulk’ of spying interest. What does this mean for you? Well, they have yet to go and soak up the ‘little guys’ that use much more advanced technology to deliver a message from point A to B. And better yet, encrypted chatting plugins make spying on your personal chats within one of these smaller companies beyond difficult.
The Internet Juggernauts Are Watching
The most important thing to remember is that even if you’re ‘protected’ behind a billion IP masks and encrypted technologies, the moment that your message hits the servers of Skype or Google (through chatting on their platforms through Skype chat or Gmail), they will have access. That’s why we need to discuss protected chat programs, or at least better options.
Even The Guardian, the publication that released the documents, explains that the NSA appears to have failed at conquering companies like Vine, LINE, Viber, Kik and KakaoTalk. Whether or not that is true does not necessarily matter, as we are going past that. Vine, for example, is large enough that it is certainly on the NSA’s list of domination. That, and we’re talking about an app that doesn’t go the extra mile to encrypt your communications.
Instead, here are some steps to get on a protected chat program for mobile and PC. One that isn’t large enough for the NSA to bother with and protects your chats without use of major servers:
Off the Grid: Abandon Skype, Google Chat, Facebook chat, and all of the top clients like AIM. This is obvious, but you need to at the very least use Pidgin with the encryption plugin if you need to remain active on these chat programs for whatever reason. Even with Pidgin’s encryption, though, you’ll still be going through the servers of internet titans like Google.
For your computer: A free chat client like Cryptocat is light years beyond what you’re experiencing with Google and Facebook. Cryptocat is free, very simple, and uses your browser to chat with others. It’s also encrypted.
For your phone: Get something like Seecrypt for your phone. The idea behind this app is that you can chat with others who use Seecrypt and are also encrypted. This bypasses the use of the mega chat servers, as it’s all through the encrypted Seecrypt channels. This app is $3 which is very cheap for encryption tech, and it is also relatively unknown. These two qualities make it a worthless target for the NSA.
Protect your internet sessions: If you don’t already have the service, try a VPN (Virtual Private Network). The way a VPN works, which you can actively choose to log into on your computer through a program (so it doesn’t have to be on 24/7 if you don’t want it to be), is that it encrypts your internet sessions by using an external server. This protects your sessions from spying of all forms, but it does not protect your actions in regards once again to the mega servers. For example, even if you’re on a VPN but still chatting on Facebook, it doesn’t make a difference (because Facebook’s server is still capturing your chat while you’re logged in). A VPN is ideal to use with something like Crypto.cat, protecting your IP as well as your chats.
Protect your search: Check out an engine like Startpage, which encrypts all of your searches and apparently does not record your IP address.
Following the NSA leak, independent hosting and email providers are already changing the way their services work in order to workaround the spy grid. Database administrator Cameron Fillers of California-based Komputer King hosting services told Storyleak:
“Komputer King has ongoing efforts to secure its end users privacy and security. One of the methods by which they support this feature, is by offering e-mail accounts using their dedicated Zimbra Servers. Zimbra is a professional E-mail Server system that allows you to login and access your e-mail using SSL in order to send e-mail securely, and is not handled by anyone else. Zimbra also has the unique ability to offer private Instant Messaging using XMPP. At $2 dollars per e-mail account (which doubles as your IM account), you are able to send e-mail and chat completely off the grid in a secure environment. You can use a client like Pidgin to connect to the Zimbra server.”
At the end of the day, these steps are effective but only a precursor to privacy activism. And most importantly, it’s essential that you stop putting up with the NSA spying on you and your family. The ultimate goal is to inform the public that the government should not be pushing us into fear, nor have us hiding from the corporations that hand over all of our personal data to the government. Use these practical tips to protect your privacy on the web, but be sure to understand that the ultimate goal is to restore our fundamental freedoms.