Internet surveillance: Are you powerless?

Introduction

So we’ve entered into the surveillance age a while ago, especially on the internet. Everything you say or do is recorded forever and can be used against you whenever and however intelligence agencies see fit. Essentially, nothing you post on the internet is private. I would like to write out some thoughts I’ve been walking around with for quite a while. Are you powerless against internet surveillance, is there anything you can do to protect yourself from internet surveillance? Lets find out, I’ll try to write succinctly.

First and foremost

Imagine the internet as your local public library. It’s filled with books, literature and other forms of entertainment. Everyone can join and browse freely and even take out a book or two for reading it at home. It’s a very public place, everyone can see and hear you. If you want to keep certain information private, away from the other library members you wont talk about that through the phone, you wont hang up pieces of paper containing that information and you don’t talk about that with your friends inside a library.

At first people would create an online identity rather than using their real identities but this slowly changed

The internet was very much like a public library, pretty much everything can be intercepted as long as it isn’t encrypted using a cipher. This is why people 20 years ago didn’t share their real name, phone number, addresses, credit card information and photos over their primitive yet effective dialup internet connections. I’ve been there, not a whole lot since my parents would not allow me to tie up the phone line and create an expensive phone bill.

There was money to be made and this is where it went all wrong in my opinion.

I’ve seen the internet change a great deal. Instant messaging came to existence, profile pages came to life, online gaming became popular and people started sharing photos of their families and themselves. At first people would create an online identity rather than using their real identities but this slowly changed. At a certain point in time, between 1995 and 2000 internet commerce started booming and advertisement programs started to evolve.

We went from not telling anybody anything to telling everybody everything in only a short period of time. And this is really bad.

There was money to be made and this is where it went all wrong in my opinion. Social media with advertisement started to evolve as well as instant messaging clients with advertisements on them came to life. This strategy even got boosted ever since the inception of mobile computing such as tablets and smartphones. It’s right there in front of everyone’s eyes to see that corporations try to make you send them your personal information such as your phone number, addresses, places you went and even your interests all because they will promise you more and more convenience and more security. Corporations behind large social media companies actually provide a bit more security and convenience but this isn’t their primary concern. It’s targeted advertisement and money.

Don’t even post private mattersĀ to the internet, because in the end nothing on the internet is private!

We went from not telling anybody anything to telling everybody everything in only a short period of time. And this is really bad. I guess you can see by now that there is a great lesson to be learned again here. Stop telling everybody everything, and keep things private again. Don’t even post private mattersĀ to the internet, because in the end nothing on the internet is private! Use the internet wisely.

Information and technology, analog people in a digital world

Right now almost everything is done with computers, or computer like devices. Paying bills, applying for jobs, filling out tax forms, even buying dinner or food packages is done on the internet. Buying and selling of various goods, communicating and playing games and socializing is done with the aid of computers and internet. Essentially everything in this world is digital. There’s nothing wrong with this essentially, however there is a ginormous lack of understanding about the underlying technology among most non-technical persons all over the world. This is being exploited to no end by agencies and corporations who have need for your personal data.

Look at Windows 8 and Windows 10. Both versions, and updates to Windows 7 as well, now share your personal information as well.

Let’s shortly talk about Windows. Windows as a computer operating system had some great versions, namely 98 Second Edition, XP and 7. Very stable, fast and lasted a while when used properly. Almost every program worked flawlessly and was very convenient. Most notably, the mentioned versions shared only technical oriented data with Microsoft to better develop programs, which is somewhat fair. Look at Windows 8 and Windows 10. Both versions, and updates to Windows 7 as well, now share your personal information as well. Several tests using Deep Packet Inspection techniques show that Windows 10 is now uploading your family vacation photos to Microsoft servers ‘to better development programs’ or ‘make programs more secure’. You can also find this information in the Windows 10 End user license agreement.

if the whole world preferred a Linux based operating system instead of Windows based, virus infections would be generally the same

Another thing that has to be mentioned is the fact that Windows is so susceptible to viruses. Technically this isn’t always a technical problem cause by Microsoft (it partially is because of the Windows architecture, but that’s beside the point), it’s just because almost about everybody is using it. If a person with a destructive attitude would want to target a large quantity of computers to compromise them for the use in botnets they would generally just spend effort in creating a Windows virus. It just makes sense, if the whole world preferred a Linux based operating system instead of Windows based, virus infections would be generally the same because people with destruction on their mind would invest all their effort in creating Linux viruses.

People who use these technologies and get caught anyway have only themselves to blame

In terms of firewall protection, most of everyone on this planet rely on a thinly constructed poorly configured weak firewall on conventional routers, provided by your telecom provider. Security of such devices is usually marginal at best. A whole lot of people get their computer network security breached by not having a sufficiently functioning firewall system.A lot of people who are participating in hacktivism also forget to hide their technically identifiable information such as hostnames, IP addresses, Geo-locations sent using GPS but also their personal identifiable information. A lot of people don’t properly understand how to use VPN clients or the TOR network properly. People who use these technologies and get caught anyway have only themselves to blame for they didn’t understand the technology sufficiently enough to cover the most obvious security leaks.

I like to draw an analogy with driving cars to simplify this.

I guess you’ve got a fair approximation of the situation here. The vast lack of understanding of the technology used to do everyday things but also hacktivism often leads to compromised data or even worse: getting caught and being sentenced to prison. I like to draw an analogy with driving cars to simplify this. If you own a car, you can at least identify the engine, you at least know where to check your oil level and refill it when needed. You at least understand that the car doesn’t function properly without the proper fuel. You can at least figure out how to change a broken lamp. The same should apply to computers, understand them sufficiently enough to effectively do what you want to do with it.

Conclusion

The lack of understanding technology sufficiently to fit a certain purpose is a great contributor to data compromise and network breaches. I believe people should educate and practice more before they perform certain tasks to ensure maximum efficiency, be it in protecting data or identities. If you’re really concerned about internet surveillance and don’t want your private information stored into the databases of government agencies, and want to fight back you should open yourself up to a certain amount of technical understanding as well. You can not be lazy and neglect technical understanding as something impossible for you to understand. To give you a few pointers: Learn how to use Linux, cut your Windows dependencies. Go to the attic and dust of that old Pentium 3 PC and create a decent enough firewall system out of it. Encrypt your data using the best cipher possible. Most important of all, be smart, don’t post private information to the internet. If it really is private it doesn’t belong on the internet.

Leave a Reply