Speaking on Capitol Hill yesterday, National Intelligence Director James Clapper raised concerns over the “disparagement of the U.S. Intelligence community” and the “existential threat” posed by Russia. But the results of last year’s elections should raise even greater concerns for all of us.
“If I had it to do all over again, I would know a hell of a lot more about cybersecurity,” Donna Brazile, interim-Chair of the Democratic National Committee, remarked in a recent interview, reflecting on the disclosure of planning information from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Clinton campaign by Wikileaks.
Trump's rise was in large part driven by the success of hacking operations. He has consistently praised hacks and encouraged them, provided they have supported his quest for power.
Now, we have the terrifying specter of Trump gaining direct control over the most invasive NSA surveillance programs the world has ever seen. Edward Snowden’s (not to mention George Orwell’s) nightmare of totalitarianism hangs over our heads.
As Snowden stated in 2013, shortly after releasing a trove of information regarding the NSA’s mass surveillance activities:
The greatest fear that I have regarding the outcome for America of these disclosures is that nothing will change. . . [In the] the years ahead it's only going to get worse until eventually. . . a new leader will be elected, they'll find the switch, say that 'Because of the crisis, because of the dangers we face in the world, some new and unpredicted threat, we need more authority, we need more power.' And there will be nothing the people can do at that point to oppose it. And it will be turnkey tyranny.
Trump has surrounded himself with some of the most extreme dirty tricksters that we have seen in modern politics. There’s Steve Bannon for one, who headed Trump's campaign and is now chief strategist and senior counsel for the White House. Bannon previously managed Breitbart Media — infamous for posting videos which falsely appeared to show employees of the community organization ACORN providing criminal advice to clients. Much of ACORN's funding was subsequently cut, resulting in its dissolution.
Another key Trump associate is James O'Keefe, who shot the ACORN videos and who got two democratic staffers fired with a video sting at the height of the 2016 election. O’Keefe’s Project Veritas received $10,000 from the Trump Foundation in May of 2015.
Then there is Roger Stone, a close consultant to Trump who has a tattoo of Richard Nixon's face on his back. Stone began his career in politics in 1972 as a member of Richard Nixon's Committee to Reelect the President (CREEP), the formal name for the Watergate “plumbers.”
The most violent of the group is probably Jerry DeLemus, Trump's New Hampshire campaign co-chair who was indicted by the FBI as part of Cliven Bundy's militia organization, which led the armed standoff in Oregon against the Bureau of Land Management.
These are all very dangerous individuals who will use every tool at their disposal to build political power on the backs of communities of color, women, workers and civil society as a whole.
Given the prevalence of hacking, it is long past time all of us, especially those of us work within targeted communities, use secure end-to-end open source encryption systems to protect our data and communications.
Here’s one positive thing to understand in these dark times: Thanks to thirty years of collective work on the part of coders in the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) movement, tools that can prevent most types of digital attack, even from the NSA, are free for non-profits and individuals. Start using end-to-end open source encryption for all sensitive communications before Trump takes power on January 20.
Here is a list of tools you can use to protect your privacy. It first ran in The Indy over the summer but is more relevant than ever now.
6 Tools to Protect Your Privacy
1) Signal by Open whisper systems (in App Stores)
Signal is the easiest and most secure encrypted text and calling program, with more than one million users. The app is free and takes 3-5 minutes to get started. It can now be used with both your phone and computer.
2) Jitsi (Jitsi.org)
A free service, requiring no account, that allows for multiparty, end-to-end encrypted video calls and chats. For more usability you can install a download, but it is not necessary to get started calling friends around the globe.
3) Tor (www.torproject.org)
A free browser that uses encryption and a random series of open routing computers to separate your actions online from your IP (internet protocol) address, providing anonymity.
4) Make a longer passphrase with memorable words
With robust symmetric encryption, when you lose your password, you lose your data. This means that you have to create passphrases, not just words, that are easy for humans to remember but hard for machines to guess. The simplest way to do this is to use at least four random words, and a number or given name. For example; “correcthorsebatterystaplenatturner”.
5) PGP/GPG (www.gnupg.org)
A free, open source, end-to-end encryption system that has been used and tested for over 25 years. It is designed to supplement your current email address, so you don’t need a new email, you can just add this asymmetric encryption system over the top of your current provider.
6) Tails OS (tails.boum.org)
A free, open source operating system that can be run on most computer hardware and secures your traffic and data on an encrypted USB. It is based on one of the most used operating systems, Debian, and it is packaged with a full set of office and encryption tools.