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Keeping Your Communications Secure In The Age Of Spying

  • Written by  Steven Blum
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How can you keep your communications private in the information age? How can you keep your communications private in the information age?

Unless you’ve been living completely off the grid, you are no doubt aware of the massive data-gathering programs that were revealed in June by CIA contractor Edward Snowden. Since that shocking revelation, hardly a week has passed without a new report of government spying on citizens, from the NSA’s PRISM program that is “tapping directly into the central servers” to the U.S. Postal Service’s flagging of mail sent to known activists.

As Big Brother tightens his grip on every aspect of our communications, how can DIY growers like you maintain the right to privacy without smashing your computer and tossing your iPhone into a nutrient reservoir? Rosebud has some suggestions:


Surf the Web Anonymously with Tor

Whatever you’re looking at online, there are ways to protect yourself from Big Brother. Tor is a great IP-anonymizing tool that bounces your traffic between several proxy servers before sending it to its intended destination. Instead of registering your IP address, websites will log whichever node your traffic happens to have passed through last.

While Tor is sophisticated enough to protect your browser from the government, it’s relatively simple to use. The Tor Browser Bundle connects to Tor automatically every time you use Firefox, allowing you to easily surf with anonymity every time you use it.

You can download it here:



Search Privately with Ixquick

Google continues to insist it did not know about the PRISM surveillance project, even though leaked National Security Agency documents explicitly name the company as a collaborator. Thankfully, there are alternatives. Ixquick is the only website to have received the European Privacy Seal and earned a 100 out of 100 privacy score. Plus the site says it does not log any IP addresses or search terms, or share information with third parties.


Tweet, Don’t Update

Twitter is the only mainstream Internet service that wasn’t included in the list of PRISM firms. The company has a long history of protecting the privacy of its users — even refusing court orders to reveal their true identities. In May, the privacy advocate group the Electronic Frontier Foundation awarded Twitter full marks for protecting its users from government surveillance.


Encrypt Your Emails with PGP or GPG

PGP and GPG remain the gold standard in secure emailing. The service works like this: You receive a private key that you keep, and a public one that you give to whoever you’re emailing. If a third party tries to intercept the emails and doesn’t have a key, all they’ll see is gibberish. You won’t be able to read your emails on a phone — the service only works with external clients like Mozilla’s Thunderbird — but it’s worth the hassle if you only want to communicate with a handful of people.

You can download it here:



Make Secure Phone Calls with Silent Circle

Silent Circle is an app you can download for your iPhone or Android device that offers end-to-end encryption, which means that the company running the service can’t access your unencrypted calls and can’t turn them over to the feds. Founded by a former Navy SEAL and the creator of PGP, the software has been independently audited by Chris Soghoian of the American Civil Liberties Union to ensure it doesn’t contain any back doors. It’ll cost you and whoever you’re communicating with $20 a month to use, but certainly your privacy is worth it.


What You Still Can’t Hide

While you can encrypt the contents of your emails, anonymize your IP address, and protect your phone conversations, you still can’t hide who you call or where and when you call them. The reason is that this metadata is stored by cellphone carriers, who are being monitored by the government. Until a secure carrier comes to market, there’s not a whole lot we can do about this.

That said, we’re not living in a dystopia; there are tools we can use to protect ourselves from many government surveillance methods. But it’s our responsibility to learn how to use them.

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Last modified on Tuesday, 15 October 2013 22:53

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