Tools to Use to Avoid Uncle Sam's Snooping

Tools to Use to Avoid Uncle Sam's Snooping

The US Government has recently been caught unlawfully monitoring the Associated Press. From what I can gather, the government was looking for the contact that leaked some information regarding a cyber-attack. Read more about that political stuff here. So what can you do to prevent this from happening to you as a photo journalist? Well don't do something stupid, but if needed here is a list of some undercover software to keep your work under wraps.

TrueCrypt: This software creates virtual disks and will not display or allow access to the data contained without your password. On their website they state, "We have not implemented any 'backdoor' in TrueCrypt (and will never implement any even if asked to do so by a government agency), because it would defeat the purpose of the software." This software is also great for hiding your special photos you don't want your buddies finding.

Tor: Tor allows you to stay anonymous while browsing the web by simply rerouting your connections through various nodes or hops. Basically your connection is routed all over the place through data links before it loads your page. Your internet speed can be slower, but it is a small price to pay for security.

VPN: A Virtual Private Network allows you to have a hidden link to an outside server / connection. Your computer's IP address is hidden while in use and uses the remote connection's instead. You can be in Canada and logged into a VPN in the USA giving you a local IP address. This can be used to view certain streaming video sites while not in the country they allow access to; you simply trick the site with a local IP.

Dead Drop / Strongbox: Strongbox is a system used by the New Yorker to allow anonymous sources to deliver information, messages, and files. The setup requires you to use the web browser, Tor, mentioned above, and is powred by Dead Drop. They have a nice privacy promise. If you are looking to pass some information along to a news source and want to stay in the shadows, this is a nice option.

Burner App: Burner allows you to have a single use cell phone number. I am not 100% sure how secure it is on the back end, but at least you can place a call without having to worry about that annoying client having your cell number.

Proxy Server: A proxy server is a system or application that requests resources from another server, acting as a middle man: a simple go between from your computer to the internet. It can be used very easily to hide what sites you are going to by only showing the connection to the proxy locally. This is a great tool if your work blocks certain sites; however, the IT department will see you are connected to a proxy and might wonder what you are doing.

[Via Fox News]

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Tobias Solem's picture

Land of the free.

Patryk M's picture

Thank you. I'm downloading now :)

Tero de la Rosa's picture

Don't be fooled, not every proxy/vpn is anonymous. Don't ever use a free service or your information is most probably going to end up in the wrong hands:

Always use a paid service that ensures no logs whatsoever. Use preferably VPN with strong encryption (L2TP/IPSec 256-bit AES is a good reference).


Which one to trust then? Here some reading:

Jerrit Pruyn's picture

Thanks for the added info.

Mr Blah's picture

Company ethics is also to be considered.

While "TrueCrypt" says they won't put a back door, it doesn't say anything about complying too a request from the gov.

Some companies have stated that they would not give away info unless a court order has been issued and this is safer (to me at least) than not saying anything.

Again i didn't check their site, it was an example!

First Last's picture

meh, you completely misunderstand what TrueCrypt is. It is open source encryption software which you can use to encrypt or decrypt files on your local computer as you see fit. It would be best if you checked out a product before commenting on it so as not to spread false rumors.

Mr Blah's picture

I also wrote that I didn't check their product at the end of the post.

I was referring more as encryption services on mobile devices such as Blackberry offers. Some of those service provider are quite prompt to give the info out to authorities without real legal papers against their client.

thanks for the info nonetheless!

micha8583's picture

For true crypting try Pretty Good Privacy. Some of the old copies must still be around on the web, somewhere.
For the coders among us: there definitely is no back door, since you can compile the source code for yourself, if you wanted to.
The encryption itself is quite strong, using the blowfish and the RSA- algorythm - quite heavy- duty- stuff.

jugstopper_rides_again's picture

"unlawfully monitoring" is untrue.

Swade's picture

I agree. Show us the law that they broke that says they cannot take phone records for an investigation that could be a national security problem?

Jerrit Pruyn's picture

I am slightly concerned this is even brought up. Maybe you should read about Nixon? But I guess I should go by due process and say they are innocent until proven guilty.

Roman Kazmierczak's picture

You mean guilty until you will prove otherwise...

Josh R.'s picture

This may or may not be technically true as it has yet to be really tested in court. However it's definitely unjust.

Christopher Mims's picture

Thanks for sharing. Interesting information. Especially considering the IRS can monitor your email, online purchases, and facebook etc.

Roman Kazmierczak's picture

Whatever you will use, you will make a mistake and you will have false feeling of security. Especially if you don't understand how these tools work.
Using the Proxy and VPN tunneling, you must remember, may be OK to hide from criminals or spying competition, but if FBI or SS will want to get you, they will. Although the company may be based in Europe, the servers are in US.
The "VPN" presented here is same think like a proxy, just the connection is encrypted. Connection to regular Proxy is not encrypted and all it does it make destination believe that you are connecting form different location...
So if you are "whistleblower" and you need to hide from powerful organizations, use public connections from computer that doesn't have any private information about you. Tor is good to gain time before you will finish uploading the video to YouTube, or uploading pictures to some trusted News agency.
TrueCrypt is a good software to encrypt all data on HDD or to store some important information private but it protects you, when the PC is off or "container" is not mounted.