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nsa privacy

Keep The NSA Out Of Your Email – Avoid Unwarranted NSA Surveillance

by The Drifter on March 9, 2014

Reading time: 5 – 8 minutes

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 your activity that there is hardly any aspect of your life that is not databased, archived, and searchable.

What can we do?  This is the second of a multi part series on 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.

 Stop NSA Surveillance Of Your Email

We all use email. It’s a convenient and effective way to exchange a lot of information. The NSA knows this and goes to great effort to gather as much of that information as they can.

Emails contain information necessary to deliver the message (metadata) like sender and recipient email addresses, sender’s IP address, date and time of the email, and subject line, among other things. Think of this as the information on the outside of an envelope you would send through regular snail mail.  Any computer that relays the email message can be watched to obtain the metadata, just like anyone can rifle through mail and record the outside of the envelope without ever opening anything. The metdata of your emails says a lot about you. It can be used to identify your location, your daily habits, your network of contacts and, with enough monitoring, a lot more about the details of your life.

Even more private are the contents of your emails, your list of contacts, and other sensitive data about your private communications. From emails with a spouse, to business strategies, insider information, emails with a doctor or therapist, your emails probably contain some of the most sensitive information about you that exists.

US Government Monitors Email Communications

The NSA gathers both metadata and content of all emails of just about  everyone, everywhere. The NSA monitors internet traffic to get the metadata and they have commandeered many large email service providers to gather that information for them. Email providers have been forced to secretly turn over all email contents to government agencies.

Whether the email service providers are in cahoots with the NSA, or whether they have received a secret FISA court order or have simply been broken into by the NSA, there is no centralized email service provider that you can completely trust. Even Silent Circle, and Lavabit, trusted providers of encrypted email services, closed their email service because they were not able to avoid the NSA commandeering their customers’ data. There are still some providers that encrypt your email for you, like Riseup or Hushmail that can offer some level of protection from general NSA snooping, but any third party providers can be commandeered by the NSA or other government agency at any time.

What Can I Do To Keep the NSA From Monitoring My Email?

There is hope for NSA free email. There is a trio of programs that, when used together, can keep the NSA out of your email. Mozilla Thunderbird, GnuPG and Enigmail are three free, open source email software tools that work with an existing email address. Using these three programs together, you can encrypt your emails on your own computer before you send them. The message will stay encrypted until the recipient receives it.

Thus, if the NSA snoops on your Yahoo! Or Gmail account, and you sent a message with this trio, it would be completely encrypted. If the recipient is also using this trio of programs, your email service providers won’t be able to read the content and neither will the NSA. Your emails will be encrypted and decrypted on your own computer, out of reach of your email service providers.  Keep an eye open for the release of Dark Mail, a new service in development to provide truly secure email encryption.

The Power of Bitmessage

Bitmessage is a new free and open source peer to peer protocol used to send encrypted messages. It takes the idea of secure email to an entirely new level. Email, which uses Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) was first designed in RFC 821 in 1982! Computer networking has made monstrous strides since then. Yet because of network effects everyone still uses SMTP because everyone else still uses SMTP.

Why is Bitmessage so cool? Because it (1) removes the centralized server nature of the communication [no potential attack surface with Silent Circle or Lavabit], (2) all messages are encrypted [PRISM resistant] and (3) communications are immune to metadata analysis.

Want to test out Bitmessage? Then send us a message [BM-2cWVKcHoqthBGR49NL2T1XZoCB6xmgJRMm] and ask for one of the three mini-guides and see if you get a response! Once you start using it and can get your friends and family to use it then you may find email … obsolete.

Bottom Line To Stop NSA Surveillance Of Your Email

Use a private email service like Hushmail or Riseup to keep the NSA from automatically scooping up your email content. To be even more secure, use Thunderbird, GNUPG and Enigmail to encrypt your own email. And test out Bitmessage because it is really cool.

Check back to HowToVanish.com over the next few days for more. If you missed it, check out the previous article in the series Keep The NSA Out Of Your Internet – Avoid Unwarranted NSA Surveillance. And remember, you should always be using a VPN that accepts Bitcoin to obfuscate the first layer of your IP address.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: The Drifter is a California attorney. He holds a degree in Accounting from the University of Utah and a law degree from California Western School of Law. He practices civil litigation, domestic and foreign business entity formation and transactions, criminal defense and privacy law. He is a strong advocate of personal and financial freedom and civil liberties. This is merely one article of 131 by .
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