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The NSA can read your emails, listen to your phone calls, see all of your purchases, and look at your library records without a warrant. They so extensively monitor so much electronic activity that there is hardly any aspect of your life that is not databased, archived, and searchable. The continuing release of information about what the NSA is doing and how they do it is making everyday people aware of how their peaceful and lawful activity is being monitored by default.
There is no telling how this information could be used against you. Political activists, politicians, labor leaders, love interests, and protesters have been targeted for blackmail, IRS audits, and numerous other things based on information gleaned from intense, unjustified surveillance. The existence of such vast stores of data and weakened security created and maintained by the NSA also poses a risk that thieves and hackers will be able to access more sensitive information about you.
What can we do? Over the next few days I will be giving you easy solutions to going about all of your peaceful and lawful activities, while minimizing your exposure to dragnet surveillance, all with minimal effort and disruption to your life.
Nothing is ever 100% secure, and new flaws, bugs, and weaknesses are discovered all the time. Also, if you have been targeted for more intense surveillance than the general NSA data vacuum, you will need to take more precautions to protect your privacy. Below are the best and easiest solutions that most people can use to stop NSA surveillance of their daily activities. You can find most of these tools and techniques in previous articles on HowToVanish.com or in How To Vanish the book.
Stop NSA Surveillance of Your Internet Use
The NSA has tapped into the vast data points generated by internet use to surveil everyone and everything that uses the internet. For most people there are two key components of everyday internet use that are especially at risk, web browsers and search engines. We will get into email, and other internet related stuff later.
Stop NSA Surveillance – Web Browser
The web browser is the software on your computer, or phone or tablet, that lets you connect to the internet and talk to other computers. Popular browsers are Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari, among others. Your browser knows a lot about what you do on the internet. Your browser keeps track of every website you have ever visited (check out your browsing history for confirmation of that). It knows exactly where you are (thanks to your IP address) and which ISP you use (maybe Time Warner?, AT&T?, Comcast?).
The NSA has access to your web browser data. Companies like Microsoft, Apple, and others, collect user data generated by their browsers and store those records on their own servers. In some cases, companies have been paid by the NSA to give the the NSA direct access to company servers. In other cases, the NSA has secretly gotten into those company servers, either by breaking into servers, or through a secret FISA court order. If you saw it, the NSA knows it.
How To Avoid Warrantless NSA Searches – Browser
Here’s what you do. Focus on free, open source web browsers. Free means that you don’t have to pay anything to download or use the web browser. That way your payment method can’t be used to identify you when you have taken great pains to anonymize everything else. (More on financial privacy later) Open source means that the source code is open for anyone to review. Granted, most of us will have to rely on someone with programming knowledge to review the code and point out security flaws, but open source software is generally much harder for NSA to commandeer. Proprietary software that you might pay for, like Microsoft products, or that might be free, like Google products, do not have reviewable source code so the software could be secretly monitoring you. Thus, even if you delete your browsing history and cookies from your own computer, there is no guarantee that your data has not been deleted from the company’s servers.
Best Alternative Web Browser
* Tor users running out of date software have been targeted for increased surveillance, so make sure you are using the latest software versions.
Stop NSA Surveillance With A VPN
VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) can be used to keep your IP address hidden from your ISP, the websites you visit, and the NSA. Your IP address pinpoints your location and can be used to identify you, like it was used to identify David Petraus’ mistress. Logging into a VPN before getting on the internet will make your ISP and website think you are your VPN. Using a VPN will also secure your web traffic when surfing the web from public WiFi hotspots. Free VPNs exist but may be slow, malicious or otherwise untrustworthy. Paid VPNs can be very good, but make sure you pay with gift cards or bitcoins.
Search Engines To Stop NSA Surveillance
A huge part of people’s internet use is looking things up on search engines. Search engines like Yahoo! or Bing are proprietary (very, very proprietary) and they store your search history. Everything you search for, whether it is funny cat videos or subversive literature, is recorded, archived, and linked to you. The NSA has access to those search records, either because they partner with those companies, because they have been forced to provide search records through secret FISA court orders, or because the NSA has secretly broken into the company servers and steals that data. Thus, even the most honest and well-intentioned search engine cannot protect your search history from the NSA.
What can you do? First, log into your VPN before searching for anything on the internet. This will help keep your identity secret from any search engine, even if you use the NSA commandeered search engines. For best results, use a search engine that doesn’t save searches. This will insulate you from FISA orders or NSA breaking into search engine servers seeking saved search information.
Alternative Search Engines
Bottom Line for Keeping The NSA Out Of Your Internet
Use a VPN like PrivateInternet Access or Tor before connecting to the internet. Use open source browsers like Tor Browser Bundle to connect to the internet. Use a search engine like Startpage or DuckDuckGo for web searches. Check back to HowToVanish.com over the next few days for more.
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