Offline? Doesn’t Matter. The NSA is Still Watching…

By Lee Bellinger / February 20, 2014

Think Your Offline Computer is Safe from NSA Monitoring?

If you think you can protect the content of your computer from the watchful eyes of the NSA just by disconnecting it from the Internet, think again.

A recent report confirmed that in addition to their dragnet data collection operation, the NSA also has technology that can keep tabs on your computer even if you aren’t online.

The New York Times revealed that the NSA uses radio technology to monitor offline computers, smart phones and other devices. Vulnerable devices are marketed by Cisco, Dell, Western Digital, Seagate, Maxtor, Samsung, and Huawei.

According to the report, the NSA installed software on 100,000 machines that have been shipped around the world. The software allows them easy access to the computers when they’re connected to the Internet. But even when the computers are offline, NSA officials can still locate and monitor the machines.

Of course, they assure us that U.S. citizens have nothing to worry about, that this particular technology is “only being deployed overseas.”

Whether or not that’s true, this story serves to underscore just how broad the reach of the NSA is. Even accepted privacy defense measures could fall short if the government is truly determined to know where you are and what you’re doing.

The Best Strategy to Protect Yourself

A strategy that will give you 100 percent protection against the NSA just doesn’t exist. As more and more information gets out about these spying operations, it is becoming clear just how dedicated this agency has been to finding ways around personal security measures.

That being said, you can certainly slow down their access to your information.

While the technology does exist to allow the NSA to gather information from offline computers, they still put most of their focus into spying on computers that are connected to the Internet.

They won’t gather information from an offline computer unless the technology needed is already installed on it. For most consumers, that’s highly unlikely. And even if the capability is there, spying on an offline computer takes more resources, so your personal computer should be safe, as long as you are not participating in any high-level crimes.

That’s the first step to protecting your sensitive and personal information: Store it on an offline computer.

The next step is to start hardening your online computer against NSA data gathering.

Make Yourself Invisible

The more anonymous you are when you’re online, the better protected you’ll be from big brother’s prying eyes. You can make yourself more invisible by using software like Tor. When you install Tor on your computer, it works to keep your movements on the Internet from being tracked.

If you need to communicate over a network, you can do so securely with a good encryption program.

Unfortunately, many of the encryption programs that people routinely use are compromised. The NSA has persuaded companies like Microsoft and IBM to “soften” the standard encryption in the popular Windows operating system and the office software program Lotus Notes.

“Softening” gives the NSA a way to decrypt information on computers that rely on these programs for security. It still takes work for the NSA to break the encryption, but it’s possible … and the agency knows where to start.

It is much harder for the NSA to break into a message that’s been encrypted by a well-written program … if it’s even possible at all. The NSA does take more interest in encrypted message than in those that aren’t, but if you’re sending sensitive data over the Internet, it’s best to encrypt it.

PGP is a software program that enables email encryption. It means extra steps for you, but if you need to be certain your data is secure—against both the NSA and hackers—it’s worth it.

It’s a sad state of affairs when such steps are necessary, but the NSA has demonstrated again and again it is willing to spy on all citizens.

The steps I shared here can help you safeguard your privacy.

P.S. – Do you want to stay ahead of your neighbors and the NSA too? Grab your free copy of The 21 Biggest Privacy Mistakes Most Americans are Making and How You Can Avoid Them.

Listen, if you’ve put this off, I totally get it. Sometimes it all just seems overwhelming. It’s hard to even know where to start. I used to feel like that too, but don’t despair! You can take it one step at a time. I promise, I’ve taken out all of the guesswork, and boiled privacy defense down to 253 simple, practical action items.

I’ve broken it into bite-sized pieces. No overnight makeovers. No all-nighters. No BS. You can get started today!