Russia Hacks the White House; How to Protect Yourself from Digital Surveillance

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Unlike the White House, your home has no military-grade digital security. Here are 5 easy things you can do to prevent or deter cyber spying.

Cyber operatives reportedly working for the Russian government were able to hack the White Houses’s?computer network.

Digital spying is rampant and the White House is not spared

On Tuesday, CNN published a report indicating that the Russian government may have been responsible for a known cyber attack on the White House. In a segment with one of the site?s reporters, Evan Perez, the hackers were said to successfully accessed President Barack Obama’s private schedule and call information.

People responsible for the president?s digital security may heave a sigh of relief as the attack has only affected the segment of the office?s computer network that is not classified. The White House segregates its classified and unclassified data in separate networks to combat breaches like this. Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser to the president, explained to CNN, “We’re constantly updating our security measures on our unclassified system but we’re frankly told to act as if we need not put information that’s sensitive on that system. In other words, if you’re going to do something classified, you have to do it on one email system, one phone system.”

The Secret Service, FBI, and various other U.S. intelligence agencies are already investigating the breach and have found specific coding and markers that they believe point to hackers working for the Putin regime.

Simple things you can do to protect yourself

Here are some steps you can take to prevent unwarranted digital surveillance and ensure, at some level, that your devices are secure. This is certainly not a complete list and it won?t make you completely shielded from digital spying. But every precaution you take will make you a little safer than the average. More importantly, it will make digital spies, whether they are cyber criminals or even our own government, work much harder.

??Avoid surveillance.?

That is the first tip given by Bruce Schneier, a Harvard Law School fellow and author of the book ?Data and Goliath.? In an article posted by the Huffington Post, Schneier shared that you can alter your behavior to evade surveillance. He suggested a lot of things to avoid digital scrutiny including paying things in cash, using DuckDuckGo for private Internet browsing, refraining from posting photos of your children on Facebook, and avoiding the use of Google Calendar or other cloud-based backup.

?Use strong passwords

Passwords nowadays have to be inconveniently long to be safe against hackers. That includes the password to your mobile devices, email accounts, and lots of other web services. If it’s not smart to re-use passwords, and bad to use short passwords, then how can you remember them all of them? The answer: Use a secure password manager.

?Always update your anti-virus and other software

This is an obvious one but many people still seem to ignore or forget to have it as one of their online security routine. Malware evolve all the time and it?s good to have updated software so attackers won?t be able to exploit old bugs.?

Activate two-step verification

Google and Gmail has it; Apple?s iTunes has it; Dropbox has it; heck, even Twitter has it. Two-step or two-factor authentication, where you type a constantly changing confirmation number aside from your password, helps protect you from attacks on web and cloud services. When available, make it habit to turn it on.?

?Encrypt as much communications as you can.?

That?s one of the tips given by?the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). The group mentioned that even if you can?t do end-to-end encryption, you can still encrypt most of your Internet traffic. For instance, if you use EFF’s HTTPS Everywhere web plugin for Firefox or Chrome, you can maximise the amount of web data you protect by accessing them through an encrypted network. It works by forcing websites to encrypt webpages whenever possible.?


Photo Credit: ?By Ad Meskens via Wikimedia Commons

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