With the latest news showing just how far Microsoft is willing to bend over for the NSA it’s just a matter of time before a public statement is given spinning new lies. After all we were told just a few months ago that what we now know is happening, didn’t happen at all. The lies will be adjusted to cover just what we know, until the next report surfaces showing those new lies were indeed lies. Long story short, with much more material being analyzed and prepare for release, we simply don’t know how much lies we are currently being told and how many services (and with that, our data and information) is being compromised. It’s time to move away from all these services until those companies earn our trust back. Of course it’s easy to say “Boycott Microsoft, those lying bastards!!” but we know it’s not that easy. You may rely on their services or even their OS very heavily and replacing it with something else is just not possible or is very expensive. The choice is yours, just know that excellent alternatives are available.
Here are some quotes from The Guardian about what the latest documents revealed:
• Microsoft helped the NSA to circumvent its encryption to address concerns that the agency would be unable to intercept web chats on the new Outlook.com portal;
• The agency already had pre-encryption stage access to email on Outlook.com, including Hotmail;
• The company worked with the FBI this year to allow the NSA easier access via Prism to its cloud storage service SkyDrive, which now has more than 250 million users worldwide;
• Microsoft also worked with the FBI’s Data Intercept Unit to “understand” potential issues with a feature in Outlook.com that allows users to create email aliases;
• In July last year, nine months after Microsoft bought Skype, the NSAboasted that a new capability had tripled the amount of Skype video calls being collected through Prism;
• Material collected through Prism is routinely shared with the FBI and CIA, with one NSA document describing the program as a “team sport”.
With access like this comes a truckload of gag orders and other restrictions. Even if Microsoft does not want the NSA to have this access, protests against it, begs to be allowed to disclose this stuff to the public, they are simply not allowed. Also, if they were allowed, would they do it? Would they really tell us everything? I think not. Sure if you tell the public everything you earn points for not lying but who would still use your products and services once they know there is no privacy? So lies will always be there. Small ones, big ones, we’ll never hear the whole story and/or use the vaguest of terms to pretend they are disclosing relevant information.
Today it’s Microsoft, tomorrow’s documents may reveal Apple, Google or another company doing something similar. We won’t know and we may never know. But based on the information we currently have we can make decisions. If new news surfaces we can take that information and adjust accordingly. What can Microsoft products and services be replaced with?
For Apple and iOS users there is FaceTime. Those that are concerned Apple may be providing much more access to data than we currently know and/or are looking for something more cross-platform there is Jitsi. Besides offering OTR encryption like Adium for messaging it is also a cross-platform audio and video call application. It’s free, open source, supports all major platforms and has a lot of features that make it a great Skype replacement. Audio and video calls are also encrypted using SRTP. I’ve only learned about Jitsi a few days ago so I have some testing and research to do still but once I figure it all out i’ll write a post about the application.
Changing email clients / addresses is hard to do but if you are determined to do it there are great alternatives out there (no, not Gmail, Yahoo Mail or AOL). Have a look at Lavabit, a very secure and private email provider. If you host your own website you can create your own email addresses too (if you trust the host not to share your data) or you can even set up your own mail server.
For online storage i have yet to find an alternative i trust. I do not use any online file storage services because i do not trust any of them. Files I need to have access to can be uploaded to my web host server or my Mac at home. Both can be accessed over the internet if files are needed. I prefer carrying an encrypted flash drive with me though which is faster, more secure and does not require a third party service.
I’m sure there are other Microsoft products and services out there that I have not mentioned but anything Microsoft, i do not trust. Whatever service they offer, i consider compromised. Of course I am a Mac user so i do not have anything to do with Microsoft apart from the occasional Skype call. Skype will be replaced with Jitsi as soon as i have done my research and the Outlook.com account I created some time ago to make sure noone else could register my name has been closed. That concludes my dealings with Microsoft.
Now that i have eliminated Microsoft out of my life completely and Google some time ago I must say I don’t miss them, at all. Good alternatives can be found for just about anything and though open source does not necessarily means safer, it usually is.