OUTSTANDING!!! Amendment IV to the Constitution for the United States of America make it abundantly clear: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.” In today’s time, regardless of whether my telephone conversation, snail mail, email, private message is encrypted or not, we’re not talking about the mere expectation of privacy, but rather, an absolute right to privacy. Just because something is sent unsecured does NOT mean, “it’s up for grabs.” That mentality directly violates the Constitution. The fact that countless possible bad scenarios are used to justify violating “the supreme Law of the Land” (Article VI) can NEVER excuse the lawless behavior, regardless of the justification. In fact, the second half of the Fourth Amendment makes it clear that probable cause of actual criminal wrongdoing, consistently upheld by the courts as requiring reasonable articulable suspicion well above mere suspicion, and of actual criminal wrongdoing, must be present before any warrant shall issue, and then, it shall only be issues by competent and independent third-party authority i.e. a judge to act as a check against unfettered police wrongdoing and a balance against both legislative and executive action.
So, yes, the only way for good, law-abiding and upstanding citizens to avoid totalitarian governments is to PUSH BACK HARD, not by waiting until it happens to them then spending your personal fortunes fighting back in the courts, but NOW, by writing local, city, state and federal legislatures and executives DEMANDING they FULLY abide by both the letter and the spirit of the law. We the law-abiding citizens of the United States of America are NOT the enemy, and we should NEVER be surveilled as if we were. That’s ILLEGAL. Unless you’re actually committing a crime, it really is none of their damned business.
That said, you should always encrypt any communication of either a personal or financial nature. To safeguard against identity thieves and other hackers, you should probably encrypt ALL communications, whether by ditching gMail and going with one of several outstanding secure e-mail servers available to the general public or ditching gMail and using PGP on another e-mail server which doesn’t enter fits when you protect your private lives via encryption.
Here’s my (Windows-only) approach:
Keep it up to date
Don’t load strange programs or games
Use it highly-rated antivirus and security suite
Under This PC, Documents, create a personal folder. Name it whatever you want. Inadvisable names might include Private, Secret, or Vault. Something innocuous like, “ECON 2011” would be good.
On that folder, Add permissions for your specific user, and extend those to subfolders and files.
On that folder, Remove all inherited permissions.
Encrypt the folder. If you have Windows 10 Pro (with Bitlocker), it’s simple. If not, but you still have a later model computer with TPM 2.0, you can use Windows EFS (encrypting file system). Alternatively, you can use third-party software, most of which is either not very good or quite expensive.
Keep ALL your sensitive files in that permissions-secured and encrypted folder. Here’s WHY: “Research by Risk Based Security found that 7.9 billion data records were breached between January and September 2019. However, earlier research from Gemalto has shown that less than 5 percent of breaches involved encrypted data.” Even stolen encrypted data is useless to others if you use a sufficiently long random password.
What’s a sufficiently long random password” For the 94 characters available to you on your keyboard, you will need a 20-character password to achieve AES-128 security equivalence with any AES-128 or AES-256 system. Furthermore, you will need a 40-character password to achieve AES-256 security equivalence. This is straightforward, as 94^20 (2.90E39) just barely exceeds 2^128 (3.4E39) and 94^40 (8.42E78) just barely exceeds 2^256 (1.16E77).
For super-sensitive stuff, such as bank and investment records, tax and social security files, and other means identify thieves and even regular thieves can use to wipe you out, create a file-based encrypted volume within your permissions-secured and encrypted folder, preferably one which always remains encrypted, even while you’re accessing it, so that at no time are its contents decrypted and written to your hard drive. VeraCrypt is one of the best options. Not only is it free, but it’s “super-duper ultra” secure. Do watch the YouTube How To videos, though, as it’s not straightforward.
Finally, backup your files often. A simply drag-and-drop A/B system on an external hard drive is cheap and easy. Keep only two folders on it, one labeled A, and the other labeled B. Each week, delete the oldest of the two folders (turn off Recycle Bin for that drive), then drag and drop your This PC system folders (Documents, Music, etc.) into a newly-created replace folder of the same title. Keep it in a VERY safe place. Like… A safe. You can also use VeraCrypt to encrypt the entire drive, at which point you’re no doubt wondering what to do with your growing list of 20-character or even 40-character passwords. But that’s another article…
If you’re looking for something a little stronger, consider Tails OS. Even a novice can follow the fairly straightforward instructions and create a working computer operating system on an 8 GB (16 GB preferred) or higher thumb drive in about half an hour. Tails is a modified version of Linux, complete with a Tor browser, Libre Office, and many other good programs.
Yes, this is my article, written just now, by me. Feel free to use it for illustrative purposes in any Smarter Every Day video, with the appropriate credits.