Thwart the Growing Homeland Surveillance Threat That’s Spying on You…
We are all being lumped in with terrorists. And one size of surveillance fits all, so far as the Washington establishment is concerned. Maybe the country will come to it senses. Maybe it won’t. But I’ll tell you this- I’m not holding my breath and neither should you.
In the meantime, honest Americans who mind their own business must find ways to cope with increasingly intrusive surveillance from video cameras, email eavesdropping, cell phone tracking, RFID chips, microphones concealed in utility poles, and even airborne drones.
These surveillance tactics aren’t science fiction, and they’re not just the talk of conspiracy theorists, either. These threats to your privacy are real, and they’re growing. The list of intrusive surveillance measures employed by the government and other law enforcement agencies is becoming rather lengthy. But some very bright people are starting to develop and market privacy protection countermeasures. Some of which are pretty exotic.
Today, I have a few new options you can add to the growing list of “keep your nose out of my business” tactics.
The Government’s Preferred Hidden Tracking Device
A pocket like that may have many other practical uses today than just protecting you from warrantless cell phone tracking.
Radio Frequency ID (RFID) chips are used primarily in commerce to track inventory. Applied in this respect, this technology is actually very efficient. According to the RFID Journal (an industry trade magazine) “Radio frequency identification is the next wave in the evolution of computing. Essentially, it’s a technology that connects objects to the Internet, so they can be tracked.”
The problem: RFID technology is popping up on the items we carry on our own physical bodies. These items are all being impregnated with privacy-sabotaging Radio Frequency ID (RFID) tracking chips.
- Driver’s licenses
- Credit cards
- Sadly, even your child’s school ID
RFID chips send out radio signals that contain all the pertinent information on the credit card, driver’s license, or passport, etc. The “readers” for these chips are essentially antennas that are tuned in to read their radio signals.
Unfortunately, this also makes theft fast and easy. Demonstrations by security experts have shown how a pickpocket can hide a touch less credit-card reader (bought cheaply online and connected to a small net book computer or smart phone) inside a handheld organizer, and easily “steal” private information – right through a victim’s purse or pants pocket!
RFID chips can be read between 30 to 300 feet away (even from inside a moving car in some cases), depending on the kind of chip.
- In some instances, information on an RFID chip can be changed by the reader itself. In one study, researchers rigged RFID readers to write over and change information stored on an RFID chip. This experiment proved that someone with bad intentions could conceivably corrupt the information on your driver’s license or passport – and that could cause you untold grief with the authorities if you’re trying to cross the border and your passport has been compromised, for example.
- Regarding RFID-equipped passports, each country’s passport sends out its own unique radio signal. This could pose an additional security threat while you’re traveling if you happen to carry a non-politically correct passport – even if it’s safely stored in your luggage or jacket pocket.
What Can You Do About It?
One individual demonstrated how he destroyed the RFID chip in his new credit card by hammering a small nail through it. He reasoned the magnetic strip still worked, and he didn’t need or want his credit card broadcasting his information. (You could go this route, but it’s probably not advisable with your government-issued RFID documents, because it could come with a penalty.)
Your other options are to wrap the document in a metal, like aluminum foil, or buy a protective sleeve or stylish wallet designed to block the radio signals from the RFID chip. In fact, the State Department actually recommends doing this with your passport.
In theory, you may be able to achieve the same result with a simple object that’s already in the glove boxes of millions of motorists who use EZ-Pass or other transponder-based automatic highway toll collection devices. Users typically receive a metallic no-transmit pouch to store their transponder in should they wish to shield their device at toll booths (for example, if there’s no money in their pre-paid toll account). I haven’t tested it, but in theory this same pouch should be able to effectively shield your phone, too.
Anti-Surveillance Hairstyles? Fashion That Helps Shield Your Whereabouts…
Researchers with CVDazzle are using make-up and extreme hairstyles to temporarily alter facial features. They conducted an experiment with a series of tests to see how whether they could fool facial recognition cameras by simply using hair and make-up.
It turns out that if you alter the dimensions of the typical face with asymmetrical, bold, or highly contrasting make-up and hair color, facial recognition software glances over you as if you were invisible.
The technique is based on disguising obvious facial features like the eyes, brow, and bridge of the nose. However, if you walk around in public looking like some of CVDazzle’s test subjects, you’ll look very out of place to humans as well as machines. So, the developer of this series of experiments took it to the next level.
CVDazzle experiment developer Adam Harvey and fashion designer Johanna Bloomfield have developed an anti-surveillance clothing line.
In a Slate Magazine interview Harvey said, “Military technology is coming home from the war… These pieces are designed to live with it, to cope with it – to live in a world where surveillance is happening all the time.”
Using metallic fabrics, they developed a number of fashionable stealth ensembles. One piece looks like a hooded sweatshirt (it also comes as a scarf) that alters your body heat profile to frustrate thermal imaging used by drones to follow people on the ground.
The Stealth Pocket
Another piece of anti-surveillance attire works by using a special pocket for your cell phone or other electrics. The pocket is made from a unique material that electronic signals can’t pass through, making it difficult if not impossible for anyone to track you through your phone while it’s stored there.
The downside is you may not be able to receive any calls while your phone is stored inside the pocket, but you could still leave it on for functions such as the alarm clock.
This may be a sacrifice you’re willing to make under certain circumstances. For example, if you are travelling from Boston to New York but want to take an untraceable detour through Albany, you may wish to use the pocket to go “off” of the surveillance grid.
There’s one more interesting piece they revealed at a recent show. They have created a shirt called the ‘XX-Shirt.’ It uses special fabric that can protect your heart from X-ray radiation.
No word if this is effective against Tasers. But maybe when they’re ready to take this to the mass market, they can design a body suit for men, women, and children to wear when they plan to board a plane for a business trip or a family vacation and are forced to pass through TSA millimeter wave or radiation shower body scanners.
For the moment this is a nascent clothing line and mostly conceptual, but considering the direction things are moving, outfits like these may be as common to your closet as a paper shredder is to your home office.
Are Tech Companies in Cahoots with the Government?
Some of the largest, most popular tech firms like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and numerous Internet companies routinely provide details of their user’s personal information to the government – including the NSA and IRS. This allows government agents to quickly create a complete profile on you, your family, and your friends. And they don’t even need a warrant.
You may well prefer to take advantage of modern technology – and there’s nothing wrong with that – but remember that increasingly, modern technology offers other’s a peek into your personal life.
6 Things You Can Do Today To Bolster Your Online Privacy And Avoid Attention from Nosy Wi-Fi Snoops And Government Agents
Absolute Internet privacy is a thing of the past – if it ever existed at all. However, these basic precautions can help you and your loved ones achieve a lower profile than 99% of everyone else.
- Decentralize Your Internet Services
Don’t log into Google unless you have to. Google records your online activity whenever you’re logged into your account, even from services that seem separate, like YouTube, maps, and anything you search for. Try to break up these services. Consider using another webmail provider, like Yahoo, Zoho.com, Hushmail.com, or one of the many dozens of others available online.
- Install the AdBlock Plus Extension
Adblock Plus doesn’t just block pop-up advertising on the Internet, it also protects you from sites infested with malware, and from some third-party tracking ‘cookies.’ Most websites allow AdBlock Plus, but you may encounter a site that won’t allow you to visit without also viewing their ads. Don’t worry! Just right-click the red stop sign in the browser’s toolbar to disable the program temporarily. You can download AdBlock Plus by visiting www.adblockplus.org.
- Use Extensions to Stop Data Collectors and Advertisement Tracking
Third-party tracking ‘cookies’ can be located and blocked with an extension called Disconnect. A similar extension called Ghostery works just as well, but it hasn’t been updated in awhile. Disconnect also works to shield you from social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and Google, which all use your browsing activity even while you’re away from their site to collect data about you. Get Disconnect or Ghostery for your web browser by visiting either www.disconnect.me, or www.ghostery.com/download.
- Browse the Web Securely with SSL
Any computer between you and the website you’re visiting can see your activity and all of the information that is transmitted. Simply using https:// (also known as SSL) instead of the standard http:// will encrypt the information transmitted on your machine and ensure that no one is spying on your connection. Many online retailers use SSL for transactions, but using it for casual browsing certainly can’t hurt, and it might even prevent your identity from being stolen. There’s even an extension to automatically browse securely via SSL. You can download that extension by visiting www.eff.org/https-everywhere.
- Make your IP Address Anonymous with the Tor Project
Using Tor to browse the web anonymously can help prevent special types of IP analytics and statistics programs from analyzing your activity. This can work in conjunction with the Disconnect extension because each time you load a web page, your IP, which is your Internet Address, switches to the IP of a different Tor server. Imagine the privacy advantages of your identity changing each time you visit a store. You can download Tor here: www.torproject.org/download/download-easy.html.en.
Now, It’s Up to You.
Nosy advertising agencies motivated by financial incentives, ruthless hackers with too much time on their hands, and our own government. They all view your personal data as a veritable goldmine, and they’re collecting that data, and overlaying advanced algorithms to predict everything from your lifetime wages, how you respond to private medical concerns, and even for whom you are likely to vote in the next presidential election.
Indeed, the days are long gone when only paranoid nut cases worried about being watched online, or by hidden computer chips. Unfortunately, spying on every day, law-abiding citizens while they’re online is now par for the course, and it’s up to you, as an individual, to decide whether you’ll use these devices, and how.