NPR’s Project Eavesdrop: A Reporter Taps His Home Office

NPR's Project Eavesdrop

NPR’s Project Eavesdrop: Can the NSA Monitor You?

In the year since Edward Snowden leaked the information about the NSA’s PRISM program, an increasing number of people have developed an intense concern about their online privacy, and with very good reason: Sniffmap has estimated that the NSA has the capability to monitor up to 80% of the world’s internet traffic.

So we’ve long past the time when fears about governmental snooping was the province of the paranoid. NSA spying is a real, urgent concern for round-the-clock internet denizens, casual internet users, and everyone in between. That’s why we were fascinated to read Steve Henn’s story on NPR’s blog about monitoring his own internet traffic.

NPR’s Project Eavesdrop

We all know the NSA can monitor our internet traffic with relative impunity, but you might be wondering just how much they can infer from that information.

That’s why Steve Henn chose to have his home office bugged. As he describes it:

Working with Sean Gallagher, a reporter at the technology site Ars Technica, and Dave Porcello, a computer security expert at Pwnie Express, I had the Internet traffic into and out of my home office in Menlo Park, Calif., tapped. We installed something called a Pwn Plug to monitor the data flowing to and from my computer and mobile phone.

And The Results?

The results are worth reading on your own, but to briefly sum up, Henn was pretty surprised to find that Gallagher and Porcello were able to find out, among other things, that Henn was writing a story about clean data centers.

By cross-referencing his searches, tracking him from website to website, and even scoring a piece of an interview that Henn had sent over an insecure NPR server, Gallagher and Porcello managed to figure out exactly what kind of story Henn was in the middle of writing. Gallagher even added the following:

“I had all your sources. I could have written that story for you.”

The Takeaway

As Henn points out, this experiment isn’t necessarily a totally fair 1-to-1 comparison with what the NSA is doing. After all, Gallagher and Porcello had all the time in the world to focus their monitoring efforts on Henn, and the NSA only has so many agents who are attempting to process all of the internet traffic in the world that’s available to them.

Nonetheless, Henn is also quick to point out that the software used in this experiment makes large-scale data monitoring as easy as its ever been. Whereas Henn could be monitored from an Android phone, the NSA’s massive computing power makes monitoring large amounts of people that much easier.

Protect Your Computer With a VPN & a FlashRouter

Of course, while the specific nature of information that Gallagher and Porcello were able to gather is hugely unsettling, that they could gather so much information is not terribly shocking to anyone who’s been paying attention for the last year.

That’s why we’re constantly reminding our users: protect your networks. Get yourself signed up with a VPN (ideally one on our supported provider list), and get yourself a FlashRouter to make using your VPN a breeze.

As that video demonstrates, our routers don’t just improve the speed and power of your network; they also allow you to make better use of your VPN. If you’re subscribed to any of the VPNs on our supported provider list, we can send your router already set up to work with your VPN.

Better yet, keep your old router and use our popular dual-router setup, which allows you to switch back and forth between your local network and your VPN with incredible ease.

Don’t make the NSA’s work easy. Protect yourself with a VPN and a FlashRouter today.

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