Techspiracy: How to Keep the NSA from spying on You

by Chelsea Zimmerman Chelsea Zimmerman | Jun 5, 2023 12:00:21 PM

I've been going through the X-Files series again. I started with season one and have now made it to mid-season two. I have been thoroughly enjoying seeing the young David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. It's been wild to see how technology and the world in general have advanced so rapidly since 1994. 

For instance, one episode focused on the threat of an AI computer. In the episode, it was mentioned that artificial intelligence didn't exist yet and was years away from becoming reality. Fast forward to 2023 and AI is in most of the technology we use.

So I thought it would be fun to use AI to write about another theme in the X-Files: government spying. There is always an element of wire-tapping or NSA surveillance in the episodes. It's easy to get paranoid. So I asked ChatGPT, "How do I keep the NSA from spying on me?"

The interesting thing is the answer ChatGPT gave me is very similar to the privacy advice we give business owners all the time to prevent spear phishing and other cyber attacks. 

The following is the exact answer ChatGPT gave me - the last paragraph is especially great.

How Do I Keep the NSA from Spying on Me?

Keeping the National Security Agency (NSA) from spying on you completely is challenging, as they are a government intelligence agency with sophisticated surveillance capabilities. However, you can take certain steps to enhance your privacy and security. Here are some measures you can consider:

1. Secure your online activities:

    • Use strong, unique passwords for all your online accounts and consider using a password manager.
    • Enable two-factor authentication whenever possible.
    • Regularly update your software, operating system, and antivirus programs to protect against vulnerabilities.
    • Encrypt your internet traffic by using a virtual private network (VPN) service. This makes it more difficult for anyone, including the NSA, to intercept and decipher your data.

2. Be cautious with your communication:

    • Use end-to-end encrypted messaging apps such as Signal or WhatsApp for sensitive conversations.
    • Avoid sharing sensitive information over unsecured channels like public Wi-Fi networks.
    • Be mindful of the information you share on social media platforms, as it can be collected and analyzed.

3. Protect your devices:

    • Keep your devices secure with strong passwords or biometric authentication methods.
    • Enable full-disk encryption to protect the data on your devices from unauthorized access.
    • Regularly update your device's software to patch security vulnerabilities.

4. Minimize data collection:

    • Review the privacy settings of the services and apps you use, and limit the amount of data they collect about you.
    • Consider using privacy-focused search engines and web browsers that do not track your online activities.

5. Use secure email services:

    • Look for email providers that offer end-to-end encryption or consider using encrypted email services like ProtonMail.

6. Be mindful of your physical surroundings:

    • Avoid discussing sensitive information in public places where you might be overheard or monitored.
    • Use physical privacy measures, such as closing curtains or blinds, to prevent surveillance through windows.

It's important to note that while these measures can enhance your privacy, they may not guarantee complete protection against a determined and resourceful adversary like the NSA. It's also worth staying informed about evolving privacy and security technologies and practices to adapt and adjust your strategies accordingly.

Three more ways to secure your privacy

While the ChatGPT answer was actually pretty thorough, it missed a few key areas that all Idahoans should consider for privacy protection. Here are three more things we here at TotalCare IT recommend.

Create a guest network

Do you have guests, such as your in-laws, who need to access your Wi-Fi network? If so, create a separate guest Wi-Fi network. This gives them access to the internet without accessing your primary network. This can help protect your primary network from potential security threats.

Another good use for the guest Wi-Fi network is all of your IOT devices. For example, if your thermostat connects to the Wi-Fi, or your smart fridge, put those on the guest Wi-Fi instead of your main network. Then, if these devices are ever compromised they will not be able to be used to infiltrate your main network. 

Disable Unused Services

Most routers come with a range of services that manufacturers enable by default. These services can include file sharing, remote management, and media streaming. Disabling any unused services can reduce the risk of a hacker exploiting them. They often use these services to gain access to home networks. Only enable services that you need and are essential for your network.

Another thing to consider is turning your Wi-Fi off at night when you are asleep. This can be easily set up to happen automatically every night at a certain time. By turning off your Wi-Fi at night, you can prevent threat actors from accessing your network through connected devices while you are sleeping. (There are also studies being conducted on the possibility of Wi-Fi negatively impacting your sleep.)

Limit physical access to devices

Physical access to your router and other connected devices can be a security risk. Ensure you place your router in a secure location, such as a locked cabinet or a room with limited access. Also, ensure you disable physical access to the router’s web interface. Especially if you have guests or children who may tamper with the settings.

If you really are trying to prevent NSA spying, the tips in this article should help you. They will also help you limit your attack vectors from cyberattacks and other threat actors.

If you are interested in watching or re-watching X-Files as well, you can stream it on Hulu. I guarantee it will get you thinking about all kinds of things.

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