internet surveillance

You Are Allowing Your Government to Be a Peeping Tom by Not Taking These 5 Measures

The world isn’t a fair place. It sometimes forces us to be skeptical about the tiniest things happening around us, influencing our lives in one way or the other. To survive and make it through what seems to be an unending sea of unfairness, we first need to embrace the skeptic side of ours and then take measures accordingly.

You might be wondering by now what is with this unfairness and cynicism.

Mass Surveillance – Unfairness & Skepticism

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If you are a living in the US and you haven’t been living under a rock for the past few years, you would know that our country is involved in mass surveillance of draconian proportions. The surveillance isn’t limited to the local residents only, but it extends to other regions of the globe….all thanks to an international agreement signed between US and its partner countries.

A few years back, AmnestyUSA.Org started a poll to understand the attitude of the global internet users against government online surveillance. Thousands of users from every continent took part in the poll, and the results were obvious: over 70% of the respondents disagreed with the governments’ surveillance practices.

While thousands were of the view that government shouldn’t interfere, monitor or store their online or offline communication, one fourth of the percentage from the US still favored the surveillance. Well, it might be because some believe that only the metadata of the communication is being processed and not the entire communication.

Sorry to burst their bubble, if the metadata wasn’t so important or critical for the surveillance, they wouldn’t even bother to invest billions of dollars on this program at all, would they?

Coming back to the point; it is imperative that we understand the gravity of this problem, stop ignoring our cynic side and take efficient measures to prevent online surveillance.

These 5 Measures Can Save You from Unwelcomed Online Surveillance

All things said, let’s get straight to the countermeasures that we should take against Internet surveillance.

Disable or Cover the Cam When Not in Use

Initially, webcam spying was considered a trait of the unnecessarily paranoid. However, right after the Wikileaks revelations and other disclosures, we began to take it more seriously than ever.

Be it your smartphone’s cam or your laptop’s built-in cam, keep in mind that it can be hacked. For instance, in 2009, a school was found to have collected over 56,000 photographs of its students through the webcam on their laptops, which were provided by the school itself.

Similarly, back in 2013, a researcher demonstrated that the Mac’s cam can be secretly activated without triggering its indicator light. Later, even the FBI not only confirmed that it is feasible but also admitted that they had been doing it for who knows how long.

The worst part is that it isn’t just the hackers or other cyber criminals you should be worried about but also the intelligence agencies or the sneaky programs like PRISM.

One of the best ways to tackle this problem is by disabling the app’s permission to access the cam or block the camera’s view with cam covers.

Fix Your Device or OS’s Security Leaks

Security leaks are a common thing among every connected device. Be it the iOS app or Android, there’s no OS that is completely bulletproof against breaches or hacks.

But do you know the major source of these breaches, especially when it comes to portable devices? Well, it is “security leaks.”

Do you know about the notorious Vault 7?

You can read more details about it on our CIA Vault 7 blog.

For the sake of discussion, let’s talk about why it is relevant here. In the early 2017, Wikileaks unveiled a stack of CIA confidential files labelled Vault 7. Amongst the many disclosures it made, one revelation is important to be discussed here and that is Android vulnerability.

The agency developed a tool that was able to exploit the security vulnerability in devices running the older versions of Android such as 4.0 or 4.1.2.

Though the newer versions of the OS come with good security protocols, it is important that you never slack when it comes to keeping the OS up-to-date with the latest security patches.

Deploy Robust End-to-End Encryption

Encryption plays a highly essential role in protecting the integrity of your data and privacy. It is because of its efficacy, NASA never ceases to experiment with tools that could weaken encryption. But regardless of what NASA wants, security experts still believe that encryption is the best security measure.

A great way to go about with it is a virtual private network service. The primary purpose of a VPN application is to help users encrypt their activities on the Internet. It does so by establishing an encrypted tunnel that encodes the internet traffic, making it invulnerable to force or unauthorized access.

Over the years, VPNs have become versatile in their offerings. The tool is used for spoofing your location, gaining access to location-locked content or services, and more. If you wish to go a bit overboard with encryption, you should use communication tools that offer end-to-end encryption like Signal, PGP, etc.

Go Above & Beyond When It Comes to Login Protection

No matter how much emphasis we put on login protection, it can never be enough. Weak passwords and lack of login-screen protection are some of the top reasons for breaches.

Believe it or not, “123456” or “password” are still being used as the first choice for logins. However, at the same time, creating strong passwords isn’t sufficient. Well, you need to go to extreme with the login security to ensure that the most important of all things, i.e., your credentials don’t end up in wrong hands. To achieve that goal, please consider the following practices:

  • Safeguard your logins with two-factor authentication tools. You would find that some services like Google have their default two-factor verification mechanism. For other services, you might need to install a third-party verification tool.
  • Stop storing your passwords on a notepad saved on your mobile or PC. Use a reliable password manager that uses two-factor authentication and encryption to keep all your passwords in a single folder and secured.
  • Switch to a secure or anonymous search engine if you are not comfortable with other search engines that save history or cache.
  • Always keep the GPS deactivated on your mobile devices, unless it is required.

Change Your Mind set before it is Too Late

For users who have no problem with the mass online surveillance or who believe that metadata doesn’t mean much, we urge you to not look at only one side of the coin but to assess both the sides.

No problem if you don’t believe us. But what would you say if we tell you that Snowden said the same thing:

“The people looking at this data are looking for criminals.” “You could be the most innocent person in the world, but if somebody programmed to see patterns of criminality looks at your data, they’re not going to find you – they’re going to find a criminal.”

Therefore, keep an open mind and logically assess every aspect of a problem. Only then you would be able to come up with the right countermeasures.

Final Thoughts

It would be fair to say that evading online surveillance completely isn’t possible. However, the steps we have discussed in the guide would help you to a significant extent.

An information security analyst in the making, a father of an adorable kid and a technology writer (Contributor). He can be found lurking around top network security blogs, looking for scoops on information security and privacy trends.

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