Thursday afternoon, a bombshell dropped: Two leading reports claimed that the U.S. government has been spying on emails, searches, Skype calls, and other electronic communications used by Americans for the last several years, via a program known as PRISM.
According to the reports, the Web’s largest names–AOL, Apple, Facebook,A Google, Microsoft, Skype, PalTalk, Yahoo, and YouTube–participated, perhaps unwittingly. (Dropbox will reportedly be added as well.) The report claims that the National Security Agency had “direct access” to servers owned by those companies. Most, if not all, of those companies have denied participating in PRISM, although it’s unclear whether they were unaware of the NSA’s spying, or simply turned a blind eye.
If nothing else, however, the PRISM disclosure is worrying and deeply shocking. If the report is accurate, the government may simply listen in on virtually any electronic communication you’ve made, in the interests of national security. Is this something that should be encouraged to fight domestic terrorism, or is this sort of government intrusion something that should be deeply distrusted? For the purposes of this story, we’re going to err on the side of the latter; whether you take advantage of our advice is up to you.
Note that there is absolutely no guarantee that our tips will make your PC PRISM proof. One of the generally held beliefs in the security world is that, with enough resources on the part of the attacker, any secrets that are known about can eventually be unearthed. But let’s say that you support an “Arab Spring” movement in a country whose interests parallel those of the U.S. government. It’s this sort of political uncertainty that encrypting personal communications is designed to liberate.
So what can you do? Here are some tips…