Many online experts are concerned about the National Security Agency's (NSA) MORECOWBELL program, and you should be too. Leaks have shown that the platform allows the agency to spy on websites, monitor their changes and access metadata that can be used to build profiles of users. It can also be used to identify weak areas for cyber attacks if necessary.
Now you may be wondering how this is possible. The answer is that everything you do on the Internet involves your computer requesting access to a Domain Name System (DNS). This protocol was designed during the 1980s to allow users who are less technically minded access to websites without having to enter complicated full-length IP addresses.
Today, it is used by the majority of people across the world, providing easy access to everyone from school children to IT professionals. However, it was never created to provide robust security. DNS databases are public and store the user's metadata, which includes information on the time and location of access as well as their duration on a site.
Invading Privacy from Across the Globe
Concerns are that MORECOWBELL will be used to invade people's online privacy on a global scale. The NSA has the program running from a number of hidden locations in differing nations, including Germany, Malaysia and Denmark. These locations – which include 13 countries offering server networks – allow the agency to gain a global DNS overview.
The scale of these operations also makes it virtually impossible for the DNS community to get together and create a solution. Changing the way in which DNS works to make it more robust would be too big an upheaval and would severally impact on the Internet access of billions of people.
By that same token, chances could also impact on issues of genuine national security as well as severely affect the interests of many businesses. An argument in favor of the NSA's program states “if you have not done anything wrong online, then you shouldn't have anything to hide”. Advocates of MORECOWBELL believe that losing a little privacy is acceptable if it helps to identify genuine threats to democracy.
Anonymity Through VPN
Is that missing the point? Is this a blatant attempt to infringe people's rights? Will this set a dangerous precedent that leads to further infringements and civil liberties being lost? If you’re concerned over your privacy being deprived, it’s crucial to protect yourself behind an anonymous IP address of a secure VPN server. It withholds the NSA and other organizations from accessing your personal data on the servers of other websites and prevents them from intercepting the data you’re sending through by encrypting your connection.
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