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Secret Surveillance: How to fly under the NSA's radar

By: Gina Benitez
EL PASO, Texas -- The National Security Agency hacked into the phone and email records of millions of Americans and more recently, reports revealed the agency even tapped into video games.

If you want to fly under the NSA's radar or anyone else trying to snoop into your personal information, there are some measures you can take to protect your privacy.

Freddy Marmolejo spends a few hours a week in a place he calls his office.

But the avid gamer worries a little more than he used to when stepping into his virtual world.

"When it started, it kind of started with the phone calls, emails and I thought that was pretty bad. But then when they said video game conversations as well, I thought well that's just the icing on the cake," Marmolejo said.

He's talking about the National Security Agency.

"Now even when you're just recreationally playing video games, you can't have fun either. You have to be careful what you say. You don't want to say a word that can flag you and you get a visit from a law enforcement officer or something," Marmolejo said.

Documents released by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden reveal agents infiltrated video games looking for terrorists who may be using them to train.

"They have a lot of resources on their hands to get all the intelligence they need and I don't really think that spying on a lobby of Call of Duty players or recording every conversation on World of Warcraft is really going to do much to catch terrorists," Marmolejo said.

Dr. Irbis Gallegos heads the Regional Cyber Energy Security Center at UTEP.

Gallegos said it's up to you to protect your own privacy.

"A lot of people forget that the weakest link is probably the person, him or himself," Gallegos said.

He also believes gamers aren't the only ones who should be on alert.

"You really need to be really conscious of the information that you put out there. So if you have your headset connected to the computer, the computer has an IP address, then that headset can be tapped into it and your conversations can be recorded or can be listened to," Gallegos said.

If you're like most people, you probably don't want to throw that smartphone out or stop using the Internet altogether. There are a few programs out there that promise to help you fly under the radar when surfing the web, texting or making calls.

One is called TOR.

It's a free app compatible with Windows, Mac and Android, and is designed to help hide your identity when browsing and instant messaging.

Another is called Redphone.

It's also free and encrypts your texts and calls to help keep them private.

Right now, it's only available to Android users.

Some experts also suggest turning off services you don't need like GPS.

Gallegos urges people to choose strong passwords, something he can't stress enough and to make sure your anti-virus software is up to date.

But says in reality, the average person doesn't really have a whole lot to worry about.

"I can assure you that we're doing our best to protect the wires and most unlikely, unless you are doing like really crazy stuff online, then most likely your data is okay," Gallegos said.

Marmolejo has a family now and doesn't really spend as much time gaming as he used to.

Though he still believes the NSA's tactics are an invasion of privacy, he's sort of come to terms with it.

"It worries me but then it's in the back of my mind. I think about it once in a while but then it was like, okay, what can you do about it?" Marmolejo said.

"The same way that it was the NSA, it could have been a hacker, it could have been anyone else, but that's part of the game," Gallegos said.

 

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