As Snowden Anniversary Nears, EFF Urges Users to Ramp Up Privacy and Security

Time flies when you’re having fun. But it apparently also flies when there’s a new story every other day about NSA surveillance. It’s been nearly one year since the first story sourced from the documents Edward Snowden stole from the agency appeared, and with that in mind, the EFF is encouraging people to commemorate the day by installing privacy and security tools to protect their communications.

The EFF has been at the forefront of the resistance to NSA surveillance programs for years, filing a number of lawsuits and legal challenges to the agency’s authority and collection programs. The group also has been lobbying Congress to pass legislation to restrict the NSA’s surveillance activities. Now it’s trying to get everyday users to motivated to resist mass surveillance efforts by installing and using a group of privacy and security apps and extensions for Web and mobile communications.

The Privacy Pack, which is what the EFF is calling the group of tools, includes encrypted chat apps, encrypted text and private calling apps for Android, encryption extensions for browsers, as well as the Tor anonymity tool. Along with Tor, the bundle includes HTTPS Everywhere, Textsecure and Redphone for Android, Pidgin and Adium for private chats and GPGtools and Enigmail.

“Surveillance affects everyone, in the United States and internationally. Millions of innocent people have had their communications swept up by the NSA’s dragnet surveillance,” Nadia Kayyali of the EFF wrote in a blog post.

“Mass surveillance is toxic for the Internet. The Internet is a powerful force that can promote democracy, innovation, and creativity, but it’s being subverted as a tool for government spying.”

Security and privacy experts have said that the best defense for individuals against mass surveillance is encryption for as much of their communications as possible. The NSA and other intelligence agencies have capabilities that can sometimes circumvent encryption, but that’s often done through exploiting implementation flaws or by taking advantage of choke points where traffic flows unencrypted. Large Internet companies such as Google and Yahoo have responded to the NSA revelations by encrypting more of their services, including traffic flowing between their various data centers.

And for individual users who are concerned about the effects of mass surveillance, using tools such as Textsecure, HTTPS Everywhere and Tor gives them the ability to raise the cost for intelligence agencies, or any other adversary, to access their communications.

The EFF’s effort, which it’s calling Reset the Net, coincides with the June 5 anniversary of the first Snowden stories emerging last year.

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