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Three years on from the revelations that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) collects personal data on every American – and many more people worldwide – the storm has passed.
Yet the NSA continues to monitor every American and many of its allies, with the backing of the U.S. Government and large portions of Congress. And it’s not only the NSA – their counterparts at the CIA are also spying on and hacking targets of interest.
ExpressVPN believes in freedom of speech—whether it be offline or online. To uphold this freedom, it is important to learn about the methods the NSA uses to spy on citizens. Once you understand how your liberties are violated, you can start defending your data and reclaim your privacy.
Let’s take a look at 8 methods the NSA is using to spy on you right now, according to documents leaked by Edward Snowden and further investigation by the press.
How the NSA spies on you in America
1. They have your phone records
The Patriot Act allows the U.S. Government to obtain “business records that are relevant to terrorist investigations.” This apparently includes records of every domestic and international call made in the U.S., including the number dialed, the time of the call, and its duration.
2. Your favorite internet services pass them your data
Facebook, Google, Apple and six other leading online services have all gone on record as having passed their customers’ data to the NSA, as legally required by the “PRISM” program. Data shared includes emails, messages, and documents.
3. They can hack your devices
The NSA’s hacking unit, Tailored Access Operations, has developed a whole range of hacking exploits. These enable the NSA to break into consumer electronics devices and IT systems as it sees fit. When the NSA finds a security hole in a popular consumer device, they do not, as previously intended, fix the security hole, but instead exploit it. That leaves all our devices vulnerable to hackers.
4. They’ve made sure your security devices are exploitable
The NSA has also made the job of hacking security devices easier for itself, by coercing many manufacturers into building vulnerabilities into products such as networking switches, firewalls, and encryption protocols. These vulnerabilities are known to the NSA, which can exploit them at any time. The NSA also intercepts shipments of computers and phones and plants backdoors in them.
5. They can track you wherever you are
When you move around your town, cell phone towers are able to calculate your exact position. The NSA keeps records of where you are at any time. They are able to read all your incoming text messages and phone calls and store them indefinitely.
How the NSA spies on you overseas
6. They’ve tapped internet lines worldwide
The internet connects different continents via undersea fiber optic cables that carry truly massive amounts of data. In some places, the NSA has deals with local intelligence agencies to tap into these cables; in others, it does so on its own. The NSA even uses submarines to attach snooping bugs to cables deep beneath in the ocean.
7. They’re hacking foreign companies
In Brazil, Germany and other countries, the NSA has broken into the internal networks of major telecommunications providers, intercepting the data they collect and weakening the security of their systems. They collect every email and phone call they can.
8. They know exactly what you own and buy
The NSA has access, through agreements and hacking, to major credit card networks, payment gateways, and wire transfer facilities. This allows them to follow every cent of your money, where it comes from, and what you are spending it on.
Protect yourself from government surveillance
While the NSA’s reach extends across the globe, there is still a lot you can do to safeguard your internet privacy. Check out this list of top privacy tips and always be conscious of what you’re sharing, with who you’re sharing, and how you share it.