National security is of major importance as Americans face growing cases of digital terrorists along with policymakers threatening the well-being of ensuring our personal lives stay personal. Congress has not adequately dealt with prevailing issues such as the Byzantine data breach rules, encryption risks, presidential election security and protecting U.S. power grids. Governments are also discussing topics like warrantless searches of tech devices and screening mobile items of international travelers at airports. All of which concern privacy advocates and lawmakers who urge Congress to better balance security and civil liberties.
Many lawmakers are feeling that we’ve reached the point of no return on properly managing the complex interconnectivity of our digital society. Rep. Ted Lieu said he was “disappointed” with the progress that took place last year on privacy and security issues and felt there could’ve been much more done. Sen. Angus King referred to their apathy as the “longest wind up for a punch in the history of the world” and hopes that governments put their guard up while they still can. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman, Michael McCaul, said this issue has “gotten worse, not better” and most in his circle are prepping for an almost certain disaster.
Between attacks on our election system, data breaches at Equifax and elsewhere, and warrantless searches of Americans’ phones at the border, Congress is in desperate need of more expertise on tech and cybersecurity issues.
-Sen. Ron Wyden
The legislative act titled Section 702 allows government officials to monitor people via their mobile device in foreign places. Expiring in April, lawmakers now have to decide whether to renew or repeal. Under this section, the NSA collects nearly billions of cyber content from Americans each year and enables the FBI to view the data without a warrant. Although it’s targeted at foreign individuals, even those who have “foreign intelligence,” such as journalists or environmental advocates, are subject to its provisions. Supporters claim that its instrumental in national security but opponents feel agencies have failed to provide sufficient proof while warning of its ineffectiveness, high price tag and constitutional violation.
Adding insult to injury, border officers significantly ramped up their searches of mobile devices carried by international travelers in 2017. A total of 30,200 passengers, some of whom were American Citizens traveling abroad, had their tech items screened compared to 19,051 in 2016 and 8,053 the year prior. Although less than 20% of those searched were American Citizens, the number still worried privacy organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Legislative Council at ACLU, Nemma Singh Gulliani, said:
The policy would still enable officers at the border to manually sift through a traveler’s photos, emails, documents and other information stored on a device without individualized suspicion of any kind.
On January 6th, the Department of Homeland Security revised these guidelines saying that officials can search for “information stored on the device” but can’t conduct a more advanced search without reasonable suspicion, concerns of national security and approval from superiors.
The tech world has created different forms of defense to secure user data and privatize sensitive information. Below are some new and old applications for your mobile, computer, and smart home devices.
In attempts to weed out the phone scammers, PrivateLine by Shuffles Ventures uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify not only who’s calling but their purpose for doing so. It also provides an alternative number where, in the case of a breach, you can simply switch back to your primary without contacting your mobile carrier. YouMail reported Americans receiving 2.74 billion robocalls in November 2017 alone. Shuffles Ventures believes an individual’s phone number has now become more vulnerable than their social security number. If you want to be one of the first to use the app, they plan to release it early this year.
Famous for its security by isolation approach that was endorsed by intelligence whistleblower, Edward Snowden, Qubes OS compartmentalizes your computer’s apps into separate cubes for advanced protection. This disables the possibility of a file from one part of your system infecting your entire computer. Available for free, its virtualization provider, Xen, designs a user environment based on Microsoft Windows, Fedora and other operating systems. However, its operations require some computer know-how and may come with learning curves for the first-timer.
In the last 6 months, smart home hacks have gone up nearly 50%. Moreover, most devices use a Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) which digs into your personal data for security purposes. San Francisco-based Akita is currently crowdfunding an app to prevent these issues. The app doesn’t use the DPI method and has no access to this information whatsoever. Using “military-grade security protection,” it scans your system with AI and shuts down any threat instantly. Perfect for your home or business, Akita currently has raised $645,678 of its initial $30,000 goal on Kickstarter and has 4 days left to go.
Despite modern technology coming with its fair share of risks, where problems exist a solution is already in the works. Members of the tech community and privacy advocates believe that the fight is far from over but still possess the resilience to close any gap that could put our personal information at stake. These above products are valuable resources to stay ahead of the game and protect yourself from cyber hacks, scammers, and the all-seeing Wi-Fi.
You may also be interested in reading Study Reveals Spying Risk Factors Associated With Smart Homes and also Verizon & AT&T Caught Selling User’s Personal Data…Again
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