What used to be disregarded as conspiracy theories is now plain fact; Your government is spying on you. Since the evidence of mass spying from the government came to the light, people have come to the sad realization that they’re being watched and listened to at every turn. Phones, laptops, PCs, corporate servers, TVs, social media and cloud accounts and so much more are all within reach of the government. Basically, your entire digital life is being monitored despite assurances from companies that their tech is secure.
While this has forced people into a paranoid awakening, it has also brought forth an intellectual desire for cybersecurity. More people are now concerned about what they can do to protect themselves against this illegal intrusion into their lives. Taking active steps to safeguard your privacy is the best option, but how exactly should one go about doing that?
Invest in a premium VPN
I consider VPNs to be a much-needed ray of light in an otherwise dark digital reality. One of the greatest vulnerabilities that are exploited by the government, is unsecured networks. The internet allows you to send packets of data from one location to the other, through a designated network. For this to be possible, your device is assigned a unique address, known as the IP address, to allow your device to connect to the internet. Therefore, if anyone gained access to your IP address they could track down your physical address as well as easily manipulate the data packets sent through that IP. The KRACK attack has also proven that seemingly secure networks are compromised by exploiting WPA2 vulnerabilities. Relying on a password for security and relaxing because you assume the network is encrypted is no longer a safe option. However, this all changes with a VPN, so what is a VPN? A VPN encrypts your network, and all the data sent through your device, assigns your device a different IP, and sends your data through an encrypted network. Think of it as a force field that shields your entire network. This effectively cuts out the ability of the government to spy on you or at least makes it very difficult for them to.
Basically, the government is able to digitally spy on us because our connection to the internet gives them a direct line to access. Using a VPN is an effective solution for this, but there is always the risk that the VPN could be hacked. Air gapping presents a great solution with less risk. Air gapping is the isolation of your network and devices from unsecured public networks such as the internet. This is more or less like creating your very own secure and private network. Your devices would still manage to access the public internet by using secure ports, but there would be no way to access your network or devices from the outside. The transfer of data back and forth would be tedious but it is well worth it.
Minimize your digital footprint
They say, “The internet never forgets” and this is true both literally and figuratively. Each time you log onto and use the internet, you leave a digital trace. Since each person’s digital footprint is unique, it can easily be used against you. By tracing few bits of your digital footprint, the government can then use powerful algorithms to find similar traces of information on the internet. Correlating the data would then allow them access to everything from your social media accounts to financial details. Unfortunately for us, even deleting that information online is ineffective since the information will always exist deep in the internet as code. The best way to avoid being spied on is by reducing this print, thereby affecting their ability to correlate the data they are able to get. For instance, sharing less personal data on social media can be very helpful in reducing your print.
Install firewall and antivirus software
All these measures to safeguard your network and digital identity are useless if the government has direct access to your devices. Malware in your device could be used to send out information without your knowledge. In fact, this is one of the best techniques that the government uses in the surveillance effort. Firewall software creates a shield that controls how and why your device connects to the internet. This makes it ideal for protecting your devices from outside intrusions. Antivirus software plays an even more comprehensive role in safeguarding your devices. Aside from duties similar to firewalls, an antivirus is also effective in identifying threats and purging them from your system. Both the antivirus and firewall should work to ensure that no malware is installed on your device.
Update your devices
There are no flawless systems or devices out on the market. The government has been using flaws in the operating systems of most devices to run surveillance ring on us. Consider, for instance, the hack by the CIA into Apple, which exposed a potential half a billion users to illegal surveillance. Most developers expect there to be flaws but they also expect those who find those flaws to report them so they can be fixed. Eventually, the developers always find such flaws in their systems and fix them in system and security updates, thereby eliminating the risk. This is why you need to constantly update your devices. Ensuring that your device runs on the most recent firmware is an easy way of avoiding government surveillance.
Cover your webcam and microphone
This is a very low-tech move that involves tape. Hackers can use the webcam to watch you and the microphone to listen to you without your knowledge. By covering up both of them with tape, you ensure that you maintain some level of your privacy. This is a failsafe because you can never be too sure that your system is clean, even though your antivirus and firewall say so. Government hackers have found ways of circumventing security measures such as antivirus and firewall software.
Avoiding government surveillance is a lot about expecting the worst from them. Paranoia spikes a desire for research and innovation, which could very well help you maintain your privacy. You need to use everything at your disposal from VPNs to taping your webcam. The truth is, even with your best effort you might still find that you are under surveillance. Nevertheless, you will have made it increasingly difficult to spy on you and they might determine that you are not worth the effort.