Perhaps Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron can’t see the self-defeating argument in his claim that the security services need to monitor everybody’s email and cellphone calls to catch the bad guys who are actually using more sophisticated means of communication than the average Joe.
“As technology advances,” the Prime Minister told an eager and compliant Press, “terrorists, paedophiles and criminals are finding all sorts of new ways to communicate with each other.”
If that’s the case, why do they feel the need to monitor the public at large? Do they seriously believe that terrorists give their plans away in emails, make phone calls in the clear or tweet their intentions? Surely not.
As it happens, anybody concerned that their Internet Service Provider (ISP) and the phone companies are storing information about them for harvesting by the security services can easily keep their activities to themselves with little more than the press of a button.
For starters, switch your browser to Mozilla Firefox. If you don’t want your computer logging your activities, go to Settings and select New Private Window. Then install a few free add-ons:
- Do Not Track Me blocks web beacons and trackers that monitor browsing habits.
- To stop websites opening other pages on your browser and taking you off to potentially harmful sites, try Redirect Remover which prevents redirects from links and images. Another good option is RequestPolicy.
- HTTPS Finder automatically detects and enforces HTTPS connections when available, providing a reasonable guarantee that you are communicating with the intended website and not an imposter, plus ensuring that communications between the user and site cannot be read or forged by a third party.
- Use either the free or paid-for versions of AVG or Avast which both warn of and block viruses and spyware entering your machine from malicious websites. Also install a mobile version on your smartphone.
Screen online activities from your ISP and other eavesdroppers by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Free versions include FreeVPN, ProXPN and Hola.org. A popular and fast paid-for option is VyprVPN. A VPN will also allow you to access locally-banned websites.
An even safer solution is to install the free Tor-Firefox browser that gives you direct access to the Tor Hidden Network on the Deep Web. Once the browser is loaded, you can safely travel on the Surface Internet without revealing your location via the IP address.
Ditch your Gmail account and opt for something way more secure. Unseen.is is an Icelandic-based free and subscription service offering 4096-bit end-to-end encrypted email, chat, VoIP and file sharing. A secure Swiss-based option is ProtonMail created in collaboration with scientists at Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the European research lab CERN. Simple messages can be hidden inside photos posted on Facebook with Secretbook, a free app for the Google Chrome browser.
Scramble Calls— one of the best options for secure peer-to-peer telephone and video calling is Silent Phone which allows you to make secure encrypted phone calls all over the world, over any network – 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi. Silent Phone connects directly to a custom-built secure network for HD sound and vision quality and utilizes ZRTP Protocol software by Phil Zimmermann, the inventor of PGP encryption. Each user receives a private encrypted 10-digit phone number. Easily integrates existing contacts on your device and works on smartphones and tablets. A free alternative is Jitsi, an open-source encrypted VoIP service for audio/video and chat that supports protocols such as SIP, XMPP/Jabber, AIM/ICQ, Windows Live, and Yahoo!
Secret Messenger — there are secret messaging systems for all mobile devices. Secret SMS for iOS will encrypt messages between users and hide them. Perzo is a new encrypted messaging system for all devices from the people who brought you Skype. There is also TextSecure for Android. SureSpot is an encrypted messaging system for Android and iOS that also allows you to send photos and audio clips. Delete a message and it is also deleted on the recipient’s phone. Telegram is a free, open-source messaging app for Android and iOS with end-to-end encryption and a self-destruct feature. Heml.is is a secure messaging system for iPhone and Android.
All this will keep you relatively safe from State eavesdroppers. To tighten things further and maintain good online anonymity, read “Deep Web Secrecy and Security” by Conrad Jaeger. Available direct from the publishers or on Amazon.