NPR recently reported on the NSA operation Shotgiant, as revealed by Edward Snowden. It’s goal was to hack into Chinese computer company Huawei and plant spyware and backdoors that would allow the US to spy on anyone using the company’s servers. This is just the latest in a series of revelations about the NSA, which included their relationships with major US tech firms like Apple, Microsoft, Intel, Yahoo, Google and others.
If you want to use a computer, which has any chance of being free of NSA snooping?
First off, why do you need to be free of the NSA’s prying eyes? I don’t know, and I don’t want to know. Freedom from warrantless search does not imply guilt to me. You may have things to hide, lawful or otherwise, or you may simply prefer your privacy. After all, a world without freedom for the sake of safety is arguably a gilded cage, and rarely does a cage like that hold it’s golden shine once it’s occupants are securely held.
So onto the question. There’s no reason any sane person would consider any operating system from the previously mentioned companies secure. They will of course deny it, but in light of numerous questions, allegations, suspicions and accusations, I’d say the likelihood of any of them being secure from government sponsored snooping is slim.
FreeBSD relied on chip based random number generation for some security, which turned out to be a bad idea, as Intel & Via were in collaboration with The NSA, and could decrypt apparently not so randomly generated number based security. This is changing, but security is likely not a sure thing for a while.
There are differing opinions about Linux. Some advocate it’s use, if you’re careful. It’s well known that The NSA asked Linux Torvalds to install a back door into Linux to allow them access to any system running it. Linux also used a random number generator from Intel chips, which has been found to have been compromised by The NSA.
OpenBSD, a security obsessed, small and limited OS has been under suspicion of having government sponsored backdoors, but the code was investigated and found to be clean of intentional faults.
Security is only as good as the most vulnerable piece of hardware or software in a network, though. So if any of the hardware you use, or software you install, or smart phone OS or software has been compromised, most likely you’re vulnerable. To be secure you’ll have to sacrifice a great deal of convenience and spend a good amount of time regularly implementing and updating security procedures.
While it’s possible to be more secure, the answer to avoiding unauthorized inspection might end up being to not store everything about your life on a network accessible computer, if that can be imagined.