11 Tech Tools for the Paranoid
New technologies have always made us nervous. Back in the 1800s, the advent of telephones and portable cameras caused concerns over privacy and surveillance. Today phones and cameras are still worrying us, along with drones, computers, CCTV cameras, DNA testing, and more.
You didn’t always have to fight the future back in the day, but today there’s tons of anti-surveillance tech. If you can’t get your hands on an anti-drone gun, you should at least try a VPN, a cellular-blocking pocket, or sending encrypted messages.
Take Down the Drones
The military has its own ways of dealing with the influx of drones, and one of those solutions might help you protect your own lawn in the near future. The Drone Gun from DroneShield is a handheld (but still gigantic, 13-pound) jammer that disables signals and forces a drone to land or return to its starting point. The Drone Gun can be used from over 1 mile away, which makes it a lot more efficient than jumping and swatting at a drone.
Whether you’ll be able to get your hands on a Drone Gun is another story. As Engadget notes, the Drone Gun is not FCC-certified, yet. “So you can’t legally operate one in the US unless you’re with the government. Provided it’s approved, though, it could help take down drones at airports, protect soldiers against drone bombs and otherwise help in situations where it’s simply not possible to get close.”
(We also like this low-tech solution the police have come up with in the Netherlands to protect the airspace over airports–eagles trained to take down drones. We’d like to see this done with pigeons next.)
Protect Your Password, IP and Messages
If you hop around from different public wireless networks at coffee shops and coworking spots, it might be time to invest in a virtual private network or VPN. A VPN can protect your passwords, IP address, and other private information from snoopers by encrypting the data you send and receive. The VPN market has grown sizably in the last few years, so there are tons of options in terms of price, support, and speed (using a VPN slows down internet speed).
Sending encrypted messages has become increasingly important and not just to NSA contractors and journalists. Although there are quite a few encrypted messaging solutions out there, Signal, overwhelmingly gets the highest marks. The easy-to-use app syncs with your address book.
Worried that you’re being tracked through your phone or hackers can gather information from the RFID cards in your wallet? Or maybe location-based advertising just creeps you out and you’d rather your social networks didn’t follow you everywhere. There’s a new market for clothing and gear that claims to make your phone and wallet invisible to trackers.
There’s the super shiny, anti-surveillance coat, from Dutch apparel brand, KOVR, available for pre-order. “Clothing has always been a method to protect ourselves against the possible threats of the biosphere, like the cold or extreme heat,” the designers write on their website. “Project KOVR is protecting you from the infosphere. It does so by using metalliferous fabrics that shields the computer chips in your cards, clothing, and car keys; even making your phone untraceable.” Should you actually want to be reached, there’s a pocket that allows for that kind of insane security breach.
SCOTTeVEST also makes a pocket; this one is a standalone Faraday cage lined with “proprietary RFID Armor.” The Blackout Pocket at Level I ($25) can be used to block the RFID chips found in many bank cards and keys from being read wirelessly. The Level 2 Blackout Pocket ($45) gives you both RFID protection and cellular and GPS signal blocking too.
If RFID skimming is your main concern, an RFID-blocking wallet might be the solution for you. Flipside makes one for $30, Alpine Swiss makes a slightly more stylish one for $20, or if the look of your wallet doesn’t matter to you at all, LifeHacker found that an Altoid tin worked to block RFID skimming as well.
On the other end of the style spectrum sits The Affair’s capsule collection called 1984 (“Inspired by Orwell’s fiction. Built for the post-Snowden reality.’). They’ve got a pocket too, but this one is in trendy, water-resident waxed canvas, and snaps into a blazer, oxford shirt, jacket or a pair of chinos because, as the designers say, “It’s time to fight back with stealth fashion.”
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