If the title seems clickbaity, I am sorry, I couldn’t think of anything else.
I will try to refrain from naming any individual product, nation or entity in this post – for my personal sanity.
There was a time when I was nieve enough to think that there are tools you can use – TOR, VPN, Opensource Operating Systems, encryption – that would protect us from nefarious state players, organizations and black hats. But once you are in the middle of it all, meaning once you start running an ISP, you get to see things under a different light. Even for a developing country, like ours – the amount of sophisticated black-box tapping devices installed all over every network in the country (forced by law to comply), the scary (or irony?) part of it is the vendors of these devices also sell similar devices to NSA. I actually googled them up. Majority of the VPNs you use are almost definitely owned by state players or they heavily comply or work alongside with them. Money (or threat) can change your priorities. As painful as it is to do anything meaningful using TOR, chances are high that it’s rigged with holes like a swiss cheese and most definitely most, if not many, of the exit nodes are operated by compromised parties.
Most social media sites, heavily comply with local laws and share information – to stay relevant in the market or they can get shut down. We ourselves have shut down social media sites often in the past – but we don’t do that anymore. Guess why. They now have local representatives and offices in our country and work alongside the government. Some of them are soon setting up their datacenter locally, I know this because it’s right next to our NOC.
We live in an era where your PC’s CPU has backdoor builtin when it left the factory, even before you press the start button.
Large, well-known corporation with massive user private information are routinely getting hacked and dangerous tools by spy agencies are routinely getting leaked.
Spy Agency working with Cryptography Organization to shape rules and policy.
10s of 1000s (if not more) lackeys of spy organization go online every day to shape online discussion and opinion and maybe even push hard enough to win elections. Not that NSA is not doing the same.
If you think using Firefox (written in rust (not yet I guess)), using extensions like NoScript, ublock-Origin, Ghostery; using an opensource operating system, using Duck Duck Go as your search engine, using highly reputable VPN providers or TOR somehow makes you immune to tracking you are highly mistaken. If anything, a combination of these subversive activities or tools probably puts you on a blacklist.
If they really want to target an individual, it doesn’t really matter, what you use.
The real question is, if a developing country, underfunded with lack of talents and infrastructure can be as invasive as they are. What can a country with a virtually unlimited fund, insane talent and resources can do?
I am at a point where I don’t want to be part of an ISP where I don’t have a choice, I also know that when I close shop someone else will take my place.
We live in a weird dystopian Orwellian world, where most don’t care what’s going on and the few that do – don’t have the courage to rattle the cage.
“Oh Look, a like button.”