By Daniel Stuckey
If you've been reading the headlines about the NSA mining
world's largest data mongers, and haven't already burnt down your house with
everything you own in it and set sail for a libertarian
then there are some less dramatic suggestions in store for you.
Evading the NSA's comprehensive surveillance system is no simple task,
especially as we only know snippets of the agency's capabilities. But we're
going to try our best.
First, it's time to take an inventory of anything you own or are borrowing
that can be traced. Phones, credit cards, cars, e-mail addresses, bank
accounts, social media profiles, wi-fi coffee machines, residences, P.O.
boxes, and so on—any piece of property where there is more than a
handwritten cash receipt proving more than purchase price should either be
ditched or reengineered to steer clear of the NSA's radars.
Most of us have substantial paper trails, but ironically, it's real-life
paper that should be the least of your worries right now. Yes, using cash is
a significant method for dodging big brother. Even if you forget your fake
mustache and bowler hat on a shopping trip to pick up your prepaid phones,
SIM cards, and credit cards (which you'll need for online and advanced
transactions), then you've still forced your trackers to figure out what it
is you're buying. Cash is king, and as soon as you can, you should get as
much of it as you can and bury it in your grandma's backyard.
You'll need an alternative to those pieces of plastic that do little more
than turn you into a moving surveillance target, walking from geographic
checkpoint to geographic checkpoint. Just use your cash to buy prepaid
credit cards. They've got all kinds of options. There's even a prepaid
if your silly ass
insists on having some conspicuous consumption on the side of the
greater plan to be inconspicuous.
Also, start getting more excited about the gift cards your folks send you.
Under this plan, if prepaid credit cards are the new credit
card, then gift cards (some of which you can also buy prepaid credit cards
with) are like... the new prepaid
credit card. Follow me?
isn't the most stable way
store your money, but it can definitely serve the desire to remain
anonymous. That is, if you buy your bitcoins carefully. You'd expect by way
of popular belief that the 'untraceable cryptocurrency' is anonymous at
every level. But if you're not careful, your transaction histories could
be forked over to government agencies
the same complicit manner that produced the scenario we're dealing with
You could send money from your bank account, but I already told you to get
rid of those. If you've made it this far without closing them, then you're
skipping ahead. But half-assed-NSA-dodging is better than none. In buying
bitcoins, your most covert options are either a) buy a MoneyPak
(a hybridization between
prepaid credit cards and gift cards) at a Walmart, Longs, 7-Eleven or
RadioShack and then exchange
it for bitcoins online
, b) go through a broker like BitInstant, in which
you send a cash wire transfer, or c), the most anonymous method, arrange to
buy bitcoins in person through Bitcoin
These are best practices until bitcoin
actually start popping
up. But even if we do see a proliferation of Bitcoin atms on city streets in
the near future, they'll most likely have government-tapped cameras inside
of them. It's a trap!
With cell phone providers having customer usage largely cataloged by the NSA,
telephony operation under a state-surveillance regime is probably the
trickiest thing to deal with of all. There's the classic route of using code
words, voice modulators, and pay phones, the latter of which is your best
bet. But here are a few other things worth saving your cell phone for.
Of course, you can opt to use your smartphone over wi-fi, and if its an
Android you can installmobile
, and then chat anonymously and off-the-record to friends in
the surveilled networks (Google, Facebook) through Gibberbot
or place calls and videochat with apps like Tango
Another relatively new app called
purports to encrypt your mobile calls seamlessly, which looks
Since prepaid phone carriers share and receive signals with boxes on all the
same towers that the NSA is scanning, it's hard to say when and where you're
clear. One step in a righteous direction might be to signup with Credo
the radical cellular provider that's fighting for a wide range of
progressive issues. Of course, Obama could secretly reinstate McCarthyism,
in which case your commie-ass is black-listed.
But let's face it: Eventually you're going to have to make some phone calls.
I suggest a prepaid or existing smartphone with a prepaid SIM running Tor or
Seecrypt for good measure. Keep that bad boy wrapped up in heavy metal or
one of Adam Harvey's forthcoming signal-blocking OFF
until you're ready to make a call. Also, try to randomize your
location. Intelligence analytics can eventually figure out your route
patterns if they want to follow you on camera.
First of all, you're going to want to reconsider the way that you read
Motherboard, or how you logon to the web altogether. And I'm not talking
about self-discovery a la Paul
. You needn't much to browse the Internet more comfortably,
knowing that a group of like-minded privacy advocates are relaying random
pathways for you to browse without concern of your history being traced.
Welcome to the world of Tor browsing (short for The
). The client is free
and simple to install
almost any machine.
While Mozilla's Firefox isn't implicated in the PRISM reports, the incognito
browsing function is a joke compared to Tor. Due to auto-fill,
auto-page-zoom levels and other browser characteristics that can be scraped
analyzed from the incognito tabs of both Firefox and Chrome, all you're
doing in an incognito tab is keeping your mom from finding seeing the nasty
things you've been looking at. (My editor endearingly calls this, 'porn
A host of encryption and clandestine communications tools are at your
fingertips right now. And a lot of it goes back to the Internet's earlier
days. Pretty good privacy, or PGP
is an airtight encryption method for sending and receiving protected
messages. There is IRC
Internet Relay Chat, where Bradley Manning, hacker groups like Anonymous,
and other people in fear of being tracked—with names like Meat_Duck and
Koffin_Kat—are bound to be hanging out.
Also, if you have something big to say, or publish, you can always drop it
off at pastebin
the New Yorker's Strongbox,
and a host of other platforms to spill your news with. Just remember, avoid
getting caught and having to do this
There is probably no use in deleting your Gmail account at this point; it's
all backed up somewhere. Still, it's never too late to switch over to Tor
, which single-handedly allows you to anonymously send, receive and
hide your emails. Just remember, you will need to be running your TOR client
to operate the out-of-sight email service.
As the saying goes, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Although government
positions of the sort are highly competitive and typically reserved for
nepotistic military families, the National Security Agency offers a
decent salary for entry level intelligence analysts. Hey, they've got
. Need I mention the federal