How to remain secure against NSA surveillance

09/06/2013


How to remain secure against NSA surveillance
An excellent article by the king of cryptography, Bruce Schneier, in The Guardian

There is some very interesting information on his web site

Here’re his 5 pieces of advice + the end of the article

1) Hide in the network. Implement hidden services. Use Tor to anonymize yourself. Yes, the NSA targets Tor users, but it’s work for them. The less obvious you are, the safer you are.

2) Encrypt your communications. Use TLS. Use IPsec. Again, while it’s true that the NSA targets encrypted connections – and it may have explicit exploits against these protocols – you’re much better protected than if you communicate in the clear.

3) Assume that while your computer can be compromised, it would take work and risk on the part of the NSA – so it probably isn’t. If you have something really important, use an air gap. Since I started working with the Snowden documents, I bought a new computer that has never been connected to the internet. If I want to transfer a file, I encrypt the file on the secure computer and walk it over to my internet computer, using a USB stick. To decrypt something, I reverse the process. This might not be bulletproof, but it’s pretty good.

4) Be suspicious of commercial encryption software, especially from large vendors. My guess is that most encryption products from large US companies have NSA-friendly back doors, and many foreign ones probably do as well. It’s prudent to assume that foreign products also have foreign-installed backdoors. Closed-source software is easier for the NSA to backdoor than open-source software. Systems relying on master secrets are vulnerable to the NSA, through either legal or more clandestine means.

5) Try to use public-domain encryption that has to be compatible with other implementations. For example, it’s harder for the NSA to backdoor TLS than BitLocker, because any vendor’s TLS has to be compatible with every other vendor’s TLS, while BitLocker only has to be compatible with itself, giving the NSA a lot more freedom to make changes. And because BitLocker is proprietary, it’s far less likely those changes will be discovered. Prefer symmetric cryptography over public-key cryptography. Prefer conventional discrete-log-based systems over elliptic-curve systems; the latter have constants that the NSA influences when they can.

Since I started working with Snowden’s documents, I have been using GPG, Silent Circle, Tails, OTR, TrueCrypt, BleachBit, and a few other things I’m not going to write about. There’s an undocumented encryption feature in my Password Safe program from the command line); I’ve been using that as well.

I understand that most of this is impossible for the typical internet user. Even I don’t use all these tools for most everything I am working on. And I’m still primarily on Windows, unfortunately. Linux would be safer.

The NSA has turned the fabric of the internet into a vast surveillance platform, but they are not magical. They’re limited by the same economic realities as the rest of us, and our best defense is to make surveillance of us as expensive as possible.

Trust the math. Encryption is your friend. Use it well, and do your best to ensure that nothing can compromise it. That’s how you can remain secure even in the face of the NSA.


2 other interesting pieces of software interested me in the comments section:

Whonix

Whonix is an operating system focused on anonymity, privacy and security. It’s based on the Tor anonymity network[5], Debian GNU/Linux[6] and security by isolation. DNS leaks are impossible, and not even malware with root privileges can find out the user’s real IP.

Whonix consists of two parts: One solely runs Tor and acts as a gateway, which we call Whonix-Gateway. The other, which we call Whonix-Workstation, is on a completely isolated network. Only connections through Tor are possible.


i2p

I2P is an anonymizing network, offering a simple layer that identity-sensitive applications can use to securely communicate. All data is wrapped with several layers of encryption, and the network is both distributed and dynamic, with no trusted parties.

Off to play, I assume if spooks would waste their time investigating me, I’m an open book, but can these methods hide me from a casual observer?

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