Back in 2013, the whole world was taken by surprise when Edward Snowden uncovered NSA’s global security apparatus. It was so powerful and large that it was easily covering all forms of digital communication.
A similar thing happened just this year to CIA. Wikileaks got its hands on a trove of data belonging to this intelligence agency.
Both of these leaks have given us insight into what and how do two biggest spying agencies of the world’s strongest nation work.
Despite the fact that they both basically do the same thing; their methods differ a lot. Where CIA focuses on compromising both humans and devices, NSA tries to intercept data, break the encryption, and basically sneak into systems.
CIA vs NSA – the difference in technique
To put this as simply as possible, the main difference is how they are going to approach your data. The NSA will try to intercept your messages, while the CIA would try to get them directly from the phone.
If we use cars as an example, the NSA would like to know where every car is at any time. CIA, on the other hand, wants to know where a specific one is. Their goal is to extract more precise information, while the NSA wants to know everything and then figure out what they can use.
How can the NSA spy on the entire world?
What is specific about the NSA is that they don’t have, or need, any field agents. All they need is their tech employees, and they don’t even have to leave the physical location.
Sure, there are agents at listening outposts in multiple locations around the world, but even so, the agency often uses other agencies for physical infiltrating. That makes you physically safe from them, even though they might hack you at pretty much any time.
They won’t come to confiscate your devices, but they might infect you with spyware or some other sort of malware. Remember, their goal is to get as much digital info as they can.
Encryption is a barrier for the NSA, but they can bypass it
Encryption was not always so widespread and popular. Before that, the NSA could simply collect all the data they wanted. However, these days, pretty much everyone who has even a little knowledge and cares about privacy uses encryption to hide their online actions.
Despite the fact that encryption does work, and that even the NSA can’t crack it, they can use a lot of other ways to still get to the data. For example, they will try stripping protections from certain types of communication. If they can cause an error, the encryption user may try going through the channels without protection.
Another thing that they can do is to break into data centers. They store all phone calls and emails there, and the NSA has no problem with collecting all that. They might even try to compromise the service providers.
Their last resort even includes attempts to break the encryption, or at least weaken it. The introduction of backdoors is also an option. These methods are also leaving many vulnerable points of access for hackers to exploit.
There is no doubt that with their funds, resources, and exploits, they are definitely capable of finding any vulnerability that they need. The additional problem is that the vulnerabilities stay even after the NSA finishes. And these flaws can then serve other organizations or even hacking groups.
Basically, the government will bust through, take what it needs, and then leave you to fight off the rest of the attackers by yourself.
What methods does the CIA use?
CIA, on the other hand, does have field agents. No matter where you go if you try to run, they will find you. Their methods also differ from the NSA, as we already mentioned. For example, they don’t care much about global monitoring. That is NSA’s job.
Instead, CIA will try to get their intelligence from the endpoints directly. They will secretly compromise your devices with targeted attacks. First, they will try to find weaknesses by employing computer scientists. Second, they will try to infiltrate your device, and they won’t be especially picky about it. Whether it is remotely done, or directly, all they care about are results.
Finally, when they get access, they might only spy on you, or they might even take full control of the device. One of the rare things that this intelligence organization has in common with the NSA is that they are keeping the knowledge of vulnerabilities. Rather than telling manufacturers about the flaws, they keep them a secret and use them when they need access.
How can you protect yourself from NSA?
You shouldn’t really have any issues with CIA unless you do something that will make the US government target you. So, basically, no worries there.
The NSA, however, is a completely different story. They will try and record your every click, and also expose your vulnerabilities even more. However, there are some methods of protection that you can employ. It might come as an extra effort until you get used to it, though.
For example, you can start using encryption, constantly. Encrypt your emails, downloads, and everything else in order to hide properly.
Next, using Bitcoin instead of credit cards is also a good idea. Either that, or cash, but it must include something that leaves no trail.
Apps that collect too much of your data are also better left alone. Even if the NSA can’t track you because of your encryption, they can still track what these apps record and steal from them.
Consider leaving Google, and using an anonymous search engine. DuckDuckGo is one of the best ones here. It will make your searches safe and private.
Do not use email or chat. At least not without some serious encryption. You never know who can try to take a peek while your email is traveling to its location.
Just like anonymous search engines, anonymous web browsers are also a good idea. Tor, for example, will keep your searches completely anonymous. The only downside is that it will slow you down a lot.
You should also block all third-party cookies, and delete all of the ones that already exist. The same goes for ads, just block them all.
For those who really intend to keep their data private, social networks are the worst thing. You will literally share tons of data that networks themselves will collect, and the NSA will follow.
Finally, use VPN. They have the ability to shield and encrypt your data, as well as hide your location by giving you a fake IP address. They offer multiple security features and are the best way to remain hidden and keep your privacy. The best ones are TorGuard, PIA, IPVanish, and GhostVPN.
Living without a phone can really be tough to do today, but if you can pull it off, you will disappear from the NSA’s radar. No phone means no GPS signal, which means that they won’t have a way to track you.
How can you protect yourself from CIA?
If you want to shake CIA off, you should start using devices that regularly get security updates. Outdated systems are risky, even if the updates are only a little late.
That especially includes your computer, phone, and similar devices. Also, don’t ever leave them unattended. We already told you about CIA field agents that don’t have an issue with directly compromising your device.
Also, don’t use IoT devices, and especially not the ones that you don’t need. The only things with an internet connection should include your computer, and perhaps a smartphone. Also, if you fear assassins from CIA, don’t use new car models.
Having these two intelligence organizations can really make a person paranoid. One of them wants to know everything about anything, and if the other one starts having an interest in you, it is already too late.
Hopefully, you won’t do anything to provoke the second one, or anything interesting enough so that the first one might start asking questions. All in all, having them on your back probably means that you are doing something in a very wrong way.
If you just want to make sure that nobody is exploiting your security, use the methods of protection that we mentioned earlier. Whatever the case may be, it is always good to have some level of awareness about these things. Even if you never happen to need that knowledge.