NSA PRISM Program – How to Protect Your Privacy

Last updated: 11/7/2015

In June 2013, Edward Snowden revealed to the world that the US Government was spying on Internet traffic and other communication networks. The Government’s PRISM program run by the highly secretive NSA conducted all this work in an effort to prevent terrorism and crime.

The NSA apparently has direct connections through major Internet service providers such AT&T, Comcast, Verizon to copy all traffic passing through and can save it to its huge multi-billion dollar data warehouse in Utah. This has been going on for years and thanks to organizations like the EFF, we have learned about these invasions of privacy. The Government has stated it is using this information mainly on foreigners, but is the FBI using this data domestically?

The UK’s GCHQ is apparently doing the same type of snooping and even sharing information with the NSA.

The Government can see all your Facebook posts, read your email, see who you have called, among other privacy invading tasks.

Other services that are being watched: AOL, Apple, Skype, Microsoft, Paltalk, Yahoo, Youtube.

Specific areas:

  • Email
  • Chat- Video
  • voice
  • Videos
  • Photos
  • Stored Data
  • VOIP
  • File transfers
  • Video conferencing
  • logins
  • online social networking

This article covers how you can restore some of your privacy in an era of PRISM.

Internet Access

This is the most important connection to the Internet. The NSA has what is believed to be a splitter that makes a copy of all fiber optic traffic travelling from major ISPs. There are a finite number of providers in the U.S. and it is impossible to know if you are using one that has a hidden connection to the NSA.

The best way to hide your traffic is by using an encrypted VPN to connect to the Internet. A VPN lets you create a private tunnel between your computer and a VPN service provider’s server, which can be located outside the US. Some examples of VPN providers can be found on this Google search. Look for one that works with your operation system, does not do any logging, and which has connections to servers outside the US. You will pay an extra monthly fee and your speeds will be reduced.

You can read our article on VPNs for more details.

You can also surf using Tor, but the problem is that a Tor exit node could be run by the government or someone else who snoops on your information.

Encrypting is only so helpful as the NSA no doubt watches for patterns of communications between different people.  Switching your ISP every week might be necessary!

Search Engines

The major search engines are definitely a major target for the NSA. They want to know when someone looks up terrorist or bomb making material. You can have more privacy by utilizing a smaller lesser known search engine such as: Duck Duck Go  Unfortunately the results might not be as good as Google’s but you’re safer.

Instant Messaging

Forget about using popular ones like Whatsapp, Line, Viber, WeChat, they have all been monitored.

Try ones like:

  • Silent Circle
  • Redphone
  • OSTel
  • Chat Secure
  • Signal (Formerly Textsecure)

Email

As we have mentioned in our secure email article, there is nothing secure about email. It is based on a protocol that sends data unencrypted. If you want more secure email, try a service like Hushmail. A conversation between Hushmail users is encrypted.

Alternately, you can use your current email provider and run software known PGP to encrypt your email. It is very cumbersome and requires the sender and recipient to use the software.

Social Networks

Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter are simply big data mining operations that take your input and eliminate your privacy. There is no way to use them with privacy. You could post encrypted messages on there!

Cell Phone

Cell phone provider data is readily shipped off to the NSA. The only way to have some privacy is to buy prepaid phones and phone cards like those from Virgin Mobile or TracPhone. You would have to not call anyone other than those using prepaid phones and pay with cash, otherwise you would be tracked. These phones still use the major wireless networks like Sprint to transmit calls, so there is a log against them.

Of course, it is easy for the NSA to look for blocks of prepaid cell phone users calling only themselves!

You could also utilize a Smartphone App such as Viber, or other little known / international server based service, to place more secure calls between users. Again, you cannot call a regular landline or cell phone or else you would be discovered.

As you can see from the above, much needs to be done to help reduce your exposure the NSA’s data capture programs. With a little bit of work and some inconvenience, users can recapture some privacy.

Author: SafeGadget

Teaching users on how to secure their computers and gadgets.

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