Computers and Internet

Low tech approach to avoid computer spying

Last week I made a post of unusual and unexplained personal security issue that seemed to know that an advertiser knew what I was thinking, but had not spoken or written down. An customized advertisement appeared offering to sell me a Bobcat loader (hardly a common consumer advertisement) on the day after I considered buying one, but had not discussed or typed anything that would my thoughts. It seems possible that my iPhone picked up an audio comment made by a neighbor about a Bobcat loader speaking to me when the phone was in my pocket. Paranoid? Maybe, but it was the most logical conclusion in this odd circumstance. The best response from a friend was “there is no privacy”. I agree that it makes sense to presume that is the case in our actions.

Today I noticed my PC camera light on shortly after a reboot when there was no reason for it to be on. This is known to be a spyware tactic although I can’t be sure of what caused this unusual PC action. I checked all my security measures and confirmed nothing was unusual. I would say that the level of security measures on my PC and devices is higher than average for a PC user. I used a secure encrypted connection on both home and mobile connections (EncryptMe) and a secure browser (Brave with Duck Duck Go search) along with multiple monitoring (Microsoft, Lenovo and IBM computer scanning software). A quick web search afterward led me to this 2019 article by Consumer Reports on computer hacking. The article discusses low tech privacy protection methods, used even by Mark Zuckerberg.

As odd as it may seem, a dummy audio plug (a headset plug disconnected from the wire) and a piece of electrical tape over the camera lens may still be the best methods to ensure privacy of audio and video on our own devices.

Yet, in the end, we can’t reasonable control 100% of our surrounding environment. Even if our own devices are secure, other devices around us are not. (Recently, for example, I shared the story of my observation of NJ state officials launching a drone for remote monitoring). Which brings us back to the reasonable conclusion that there is no privacy.

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