While the Wikileaks and Snowden leaks have demonstrated the vast extent of surveillance in our modern life, tools to circumvent the efforts of intelligence sevices have been developed by activists around the world. three easy to use methods of communicating online are Internet Relay Chat (IRC), The Onion Router (TOR), and Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) – key encrypted email.
The details of your live chat provided by yahoo, windows, skype and gmail are regularly made available to law enforcement agencies. IRC is a tried and tested way of live/instant message chatting. Users install an IRC client or connect via a webpage and it is possible to chat in an encrypted way. IRC channels can be hosted for free on a large range of servers, and can be used to communicate with groups of people. If used properly, they can be very difficult to surveil and trace. A lot of techies, free culture and software enthusiasts, media activists, hacker and crackers use this technology. Xchat is a great IRC program which comes with Ubuntu and is easy to install on Mac. MIRC is an equivalent for Windows.
Tor was developed by the USA navy to protect their internet traffic from eavesdropping. It is a protocol which protects users’ web traffic (like the sites you have visited or your account details) being watched by a third party like your service provider or ASIO. Tor can be used by several web browsers as a downloadable add-on. It is also used by the TAILS project. TAILS is an operating system which can be installed onto a USB, providing anonymous and amnesiac (meaning the computer ‘forgets’ you ever used it) internet and computer use. Tor (and TAILS) have some drawbacks and limitations; please read the how-to guides on the Tor website.
PGP key encrypted email
Despite its name, PGP is an extremely secure encryption method for sending emails. You will nedd to use OpenPGP or something similar. There are two parts to PGP encryption; the public key and the private key. Its okay to send your Public Key to people, they can only use it to encrypt messages, not to decrypt them. NEVER SEND YOUR PASSPHRASE OR YOUR PRIVATE KEY TO ANYONE; keep them secret. Before sending an email with sensitive data, you MUST make sure that you encrypt the data. On your new message, got to the OpenPGP menu and select “Encrypt message”, and make sure it is CHECKED. Only the sender and the recipient have seen this message! Nobody who has intercepted the message will be able to read it, they will know the From and To email addresses, but they will not be able to read the content of the message.
For a more complete guide to safe online communication, read http://activistguide.blogspot.com.au/