Online Security Matters

*Disclaimer: This is a guest post by Jay, the guy who created this website with Selco.*

Right now the Feds are looking into warrantless cell phone surveillance after a surpeme court ruling made them turn off 3000 GPS tracking devices.

That might have been the latest big news of a government slowly removing the rights of their citizen. That governments worldwide actively surveillance online communication is already old news.

“According to current and former intelligence officials, the spy agency now monitors huge volumes of records of domestic emails and Internet searches as well as bank transfers, credit-card transactions, travel and telephone records. The NSA receives this so-called ‘transactional’ data from other agencies or private companies, and its sophisticated software programs analyze the various transactions for suspicious patterns”. Source

It is free to your imagination what “suspicious patterns” are. They might not target preppers today, but we don’t know what’s going in five years from now so it is needles to say, it is important to be prepared in this area as well. Better to take care of this now before they have an even more detailed profile of you.

If you want to stop worrying about who might read what or how your data is used then this is for you.

Let’s get started.

How the Internet works

If you want your computer to be able to use the Internet, it has to be able to send and receive data. It does so through a particular language called TCP/IP (or Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol).

The computers that host websites are commonly known as servers and just like your Internet access point (your home network, for example) they all have unique IP addresses, a series of numbers unique to your computer. (Visit this website or google for “my ip” to see yours.)

IP addresses make the Internet work because to exchange packets of data computers need to know where to get that data and where to send it.

Your Internet service provider (ISP) assigns you an IP addresses. There are two kinds of IP addresses: those that remain the same (called a static IP address), and those that change every time you connect to the Internet (called a dynamic IP address).

Your Internet service provider logs and stores your IP address for some months (or even years) depending on the country you live in and the the company’s own policies.

Your IP address is stored in case any authorities want to track the identity of a certain Internet user. In this case the ISP hands over the IP logs to the authorities which shows whose account was used.

Your IP address is also recorded whenever you access websites, send emails or do other activities online. If you prefer to maintain your privacy, there are a few steps you can take to truly remain anonymous online.

Let’s have a look what happens when you visit a website using a regular Internet connection. You enter an Internet address in your browser, let’s say the website of the Brazilian government. Your ISP routes this request to their domain name servers (DNS) which searches for the IP that corresponds with the Internet address you entered. The DNS returns the IP of the server where the Brazilian government website is hosted and establishes a route to it.

This route can go through many networks and it always sends your network IP along so at the end of this route the server in Brazil sees a request from your IP address and sends back the data you requested. That can be a certain web page, document or movie file for example.

Your IP address can be logged at every step of the process. Most likely the Brazilian government will monitor who visits their website, your ISP logs your IP anyway, and in between some other networks you come across might also log your IP address.

Why does this matter?

Open to attacks

First of all, people can try to access your network if they know your IP address and have some knowledge of network security and how to find loopholes in that security. So if you visit a website that is run by a group of hackers who want to spy on you or steal your data, once they have your IP address they can start breaching your network security.

Of course today it’s usually not a single person sitting somewhere and trying to take down individual computers. Instead, the whole process is automated and IPs are collected and networks are scanned for possible loopholes or backdoors.

(Having a router at home instead of being connected with your computer directly to your Cable / DSL / Internet modem can prevent some of the more common network attacks by the way.)

Once a backdoor is found, usually a small program is installed that can be used to install larger malicious programs on your computer, monitor your keyboard input, take screenshots, or hijack your browser.

These infected computers are often then used to attack other computers, or as a base of operation for more serious crimes. Needless to say, you don’t want this to happen to you.

Big brother knows what you are doing

The second reason you might not want your IP address logged is that it makes it easy for the government or any other authority to monitor your activity online. I personally have nothing to hide, but still do not feel I want to be profiled by some data mining software and judged for what kind of person I am depending on the websites I visit.

If the government really wants to it would be very easy to find preppers. They just have to look at the Internet activity profiles and filter out people who frequent certain websites.

So what can you do?

You will want to set up a virtual private network (VPN). You create a direct encrypted connection to another computer and from there you access the Internet. Because of the encryption your ISP has no idea what kind of data you send or receive.

It also hides your IP address, because your home IP address is not visible on the Internet and instead just the IP of the VPN server. You share the VPN server IP address with other people so there is no way to identify what websites you are browsing (because it could have been someone else too).

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