The NSA, PRISM and Why The Cloud Can’t Be Trusted [Plus 5 Things to Do About It Right Now]

There has been major buzz concerning the recent leak that the United States government has been spying on pretty much everyone. The top tech companies are denying involvement, but the damage has already been done.

An excerpt from a recent article on Computer World

“You see, if it’s true the US government has been routinely monitoring communications (“for your protection”) and the big tech firms were unaware of this, then it suggests intelligence services have managed to find a way to access such data without the big tech firms being aware of the transaction.

If that is true then it suggests security flaws exist across all cloud service providers that can be exploited by anyone who knows where they can be found. This means that while the US has been exposed as accessing the data at this time, there’s no great guarantee that other intelligence services and even powerful entities outside of government haven’t also identified the same security gaps. Which means the presidential reassurances on the matter don’t fill me with warm, cosy feelings — particularly since I’m in the UK.”

With so much private information being shared over the internet via social, email, the cloud etc, what can you possibly do to try to protect yourself? We have a list of 5 things you should start doing right now.

1. Stop using cloud services for private and important data. We know, the cloud is so easy and  accessible, but if you truly want to protect yourself, this is the first major thing to stop doing. Many of the popular services are hosted in the United States and although they do promise protection, no one can ever be too sure in this day and age. What can you do instead though? Host your own server from your house. You can easily purchase and setup a NSA storage device and make it accessible from nearly anywhere.  The Result? Your information will be safe and tucked away from prying eyes.s

2. Stop over sharing via social networks. I am probably one of the biggest culprits of this. I like to share, a lot, but I also keep a close eye on my friends/contacts list and am sure to have all of my social settings set to the highest privacy level. At the same time, we are learning that these tactics probably aren’t keeping the government from accessing your information, so keep that in mind. You can easily cancel your social accounts (although, it never really cancels them, just leaves them dorment until you want to login next) but this is a great step forward for protecting yourself in the future. If you really have friends that you want to keep in touch with, go the old fashion way and write them a letter or actually call them on the phone. Crazy right?

3. Don’t store private/secure information in your email. Although Texas and even the US Senate are trying to push a bill that would require law enforcement to get a warrant before they are allowed access to emails, these bills still have not passed. If the information is something you wouldn’t want anyone else to know, then don’t store it in your email. You could also consider setting up and running your own email server, or purchasing POP3/IMAP service from a trusted provider.

4. Be sure that your WIFI in your house is password protected and when you are out and about and using public WIFI, use a VPN server to keep yourself safe. You never know who is sneaking around on an open WIFI network. That public WIFI at the coffee shop or the airport is awesome, until you check your bank account while on it and a week later you see some mysterious charges. Hacking over WIFI happens all the time. If you are out, consider tethering your device to your phones dataplan, or if you choose to use an unsecure network, be sure to use a VPN server. They are easy to setup and even easier to logon and use.

5. Don’t become a victim because of a weak password. Your information is only as secure as the password that is protecting it. Passwords are by far, one of the easiest things to hack these days, but only if you aren’t following the industry standards for a strong password. Never use the same password for everything and be sure to avoid the 25 most common passwords. To help you remember your passwords you can use a password keeper like 1PasswordKeepass, or even just create an encrypted text document, save it to a thumbnail drive and load it up when you need a password.

You can even check out this comprehensive list of ways you can opt yourself out of PRISM.

What things do you do to keep yourself and your information private on the Internet? What are your thoughts on the recent leak of the PRISM surveillance program? Let us know in the comments.