It's tempting to imagine that few online safeguards will stop NSA surveillance in its tracks, but that's not true. A new leak from Edward Snowden's files reveals that there's a surprising number of ways to thwart these snoops, at least as of 2012. While you may already know that the NSA sees Tor's anonymity network as a problem, it hates the heavy encryption on chat protocols like CSpace or Off-the-Record, internet calling systems like ZRTP or highly secure email systems like Zoho. Use two or more of these services in tandem and you may as well disappear completely -- the NSA considers the combination a "near-total loss."
So what are the easy pickings, then? For the most part, it's relatively simple web encryption, such as what you get at loosely-protected chat and webmail sites. And while this is no longer a shocking revelation, many ostensibly secure virtual private networks aren't that hard to crack. The good news is that the internet is getting more secure. Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and others have all introduced greater levels of encryption, so it's less likely that surveillance agents will casually scoop up your conversations.
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