Multiple questions about the NSA and my rMBP with Mavericks

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by amg2014, Feb 16, 2014.

  1. amg2014 macrumors member


    Feb 16, 2014
    Hello everyone. I have multiple questions concerning about the NSA and Apple products. First of all;

    The Mac I have is a 15' Retina MacBook Pro mid 2012 with Mavericks on it. It has the Intel HD 4000 GPU with Nvidia GeForce 650m. Mine has 512 GB storage and has 8 GB of ram in it. The CPU is an Intel Core I7 2.6 Ghz.

    Secondly, what I done so far:
    1. Disabled EVERYTHING from ScreenSharing to Printer Sharing in the System Preferences menu.

    2. Removed any iCloud accounts in it.

    3. Turned on the Firewall with Stealth-mode on.

    4. Enabled Encryption

    5. Switched to open-source software.

    6. Considering using VPN and internet encryption. I do understand that it won't protect me completely, but I'm only concerned with my own computer.

    Thirdly, the questions I have:

    1. Can the NSA really remotely watch on your Mac? Like for example, lets say I open Microsoft Word and type "Hello World!". Can the NSA really see you do something like that as if you were using screen-sharing? And what can I do about it?

    2. How can I protect myself from backdoors, rootkits, spyware and keyloggers on my Mac? Does the NSA even use those kinds of malware techniques to accomplish that?

    3. Is there a way to make my Mac's partition read-only? Is there a way to protect the kernel from being maliciously modified?

    4. Is there a firewall with HIPS for Mavericks?

    5. What else would I need to do so that nothing compromises the kernel on Mavericks? Or, will I need to abandon Mavericks completely and simply install Linux?

    Questions related to hardware:
    1. Is there any hardware on my Mac that can be modified safely so that the NSA can't remotely control it?

    2. How can I disable Intel's vPro on my Mac?

    3. Does anyone know of an open source firmware replacement for my iSight's camera?

    4. Does the Retina MacBook Pro emit radio signals that makes it possible for hackers to watch on me? How can I stop that?

    5. Is the hardware on my Mac exploitable? Can I protect it physically and internally from exploits?

    6. Is setting your firmware's password enough to protect you?

    7. What would the NSA really need to do to hack into your hardware?

    8. Has there been any reports of the NSA hacking into MacBooks and other computers? Or is that accomplished only by software?

    9. Does the NSA have to first hack into Mavericks, then hack into the hardware?

    10. What else can I do to protect the hardware on my rMBP from privacy exploits?

    And misc. questions.
    1. Is there any other operating systems that can give you total privacy?

    2. Why would the NSA hack into Macs (supposing they did) into owners that did nothing wrong? Isn't it illegal to hack into someone else's property?

    3. Is Apple hiding something about MacBook Pro hardware and the NSA?

    4. Is our government too corrupt to do anything about it?

    5. If there isn't anything I can do to protect my MacBook Pro Retina from the NSA, will I have to finally say good-bye to my rMBP and use a non-proprietary laptop with Linux?

    6. Why do people keep making rumors about other things the NSA do? That only adds more fear to my own personal safety.

    7. What else can I do to protect myself from the NSA and other hackers physically and internally?

    Sorry if there are a lot of questions, but I feel its worth asking because I'm starting to get concerned that the government is getting too paranoid about terrorists and that the government will start doing wrong things. Any help and answers to my questions will gladly be appreciated. Thanks.
  2. lunaoso macrumors 65816


    Sep 22, 2012
    Boston, MA
    Really the only way you avoid risk of data breaches, is to not use the computer at all. As long as you have nothing to hide, you shouldn't be worried. The NSA could care less about your family pictures or documents (not to be mean, they just have no use for them). At this point, I think the government could crack just about anything you throw at them. Any protections put in place are just speed bumps. I don't mean to scare you, but from the reports, that's what it sounds like. I would suggest using your technology to its full abilities, because restricting it will only hurt yourself.
  3. hallux macrumors 68030


    Apr 25, 2012
    I agree with the previous poster, if they want in, they'll get in. The only way to prevent it is to not be on the internet.

    I suppose it's a complacent way to be but I have nothing to hide from them so what does it matter? I mean, the government already has my SSN (THEY issued it after all and I give it to the IRS at tax time), the IRS knows what my income is, I don't associate with people that will get me in trouble. I'm not a tin-foil-hat wearer.
  4. glenthompson macrumors 68000


    Apr 27, 2011
    Unless you're doing something highly illegal, I recommend getting counseling for your paranoia. No computer system is 100% secure. If someone wants to spy on you, it's going to happen somehow, even if it's old school methods.

    Better to spend your time changing things through the political system. Work for candidates that oppose surveillance. Organize groups.
  5. chaosbunny macrumors 68000


    Mar 11, 2005
    down to earth, far away from any clouds
    Same old bad arguments. Who defines what is "something to hide"? And if the NSA has no use for my family pictures or documents then why do they invest money to collect them? Everything is stored and profiled automatically these days.

    You are right that you can't do much about it in terms of computer security though except not using a computer at all.

    The way I handle it is to think twice before I make a new account and give my personal information away. In the past 3 years I have only made 2 new accounts that way, and an online print service for my job. I don't feel like I'm missing something.

    There is a huge grey area between not using a computer at all and posting every fart on facebook. :)
  6. gnasher729 macrumors P6


    Nov 25, 2005
    The paranoia... To make you really paranoid:

    Consider this: If they really want to get you, they come to your home in the night, take your computer and you, and all the encryption on your Mac won't help because they beat you up until you give them the passwords.

    Consider this: If they really want to get you, they come to your home in the night, and replace the USB cable of your keyboard with one that looks identical but collects every key you press and sends it off. It's invisible to you, and to the OS, so there's nothing MacOS X could possibly do about it.

    Consider this: If they want to get everyone, then taking unusual security measures singles you out and puts you into the category of people that they really want to get.

    Here's what you do: Turn on FileVault 2. Turn off your computer when it's not in use (not sleep). Don't download software from outside the App Store. Quit Safari every time after you entered sensitive information. Don't use Flash or Java. That's about it.

    As far as Apple is concerned: Apple makes tens of billions of dollars every year from people like you. Unlike Google, you are Apple's customer and their source of income. (Advertising companies are Google's customers, you are the product that they sell. Spelling checker suggested "produce" instead of "product', which seems strangely appropriate. It is against every interest of Apple to do anything for the government that is against the interest of Apple's customers, if there is only the slightest risk of this ever coming out.
  7. macs4nw macrumors 601


    Sorry to give it to you straight: We all worry about things in our lives to varying degrees, but you seem to have such an inordinate amount of anxiety, bordering on paranoia, that I wonder if we should be worried about you??

    I don't believe there is a way to shield yourself 100% from prying eyes; not in this hi-tech and information saturated world we live in. You can take some steps like others above have suggested, to minimize a certain amount of invasion of privacy, but total privacy is lamentably something we have relinquished at the dawn of the digital age.

    If despite your best efforts to put your mind at ease, you find you can not have peace in your life, and I say this in all sincerity from one human being to another, you may want to talk about your apprehension to a professional.

    Life is too short to live in a constant state of fear and anxiety. You deserve better. Good luck!
  8. dan1eln1el5en macrumors 6502


    Jan 3, 2012
    Copenhagen, Denmark
    agreeing with the others, it's a tad overkill with your worrying.

    also I don't think NSA would actually sit and watch your screen or webcam, what they are doing is trawling data, if you own a bunch of data you kan search and filter them and pin point illegal activities, without watching your personal screen.

    I don't think it would be useful to sit and observe another users screen for NSA or similar....might be usefull to teenagehackers or 4chan or something, who just want to mess with you...
  9. Tumbleweed666 macrumors 68000


    Mar 20, 2009
    Near London, UK.
    No need to post that, "they" already know that. :eek:

    Take a chill pill. To take one of your paranoid fears, how many people do you think it would take to watch through everyones cameras ?
    Unless you switch off your computer and never use it your fears are one or more of groundless / too late / pointless/ would raise attention to you / silly / impractical / counter productive

    (for example, how do you know open source software doesn't have back doors in it? ) It would be easier for an organization, saya foreigh government or the NSA, to add some new features and sneak in a back door at the same time that might go unnoticed for a long time.
    How many people are there, to pore over every single line of code and look for back doors?
    X Windows had a serious security bug (in it the last 22 years that no one spotted. That's in just about every single Linux distro.
    One single NSA employee could, say put backdoors into 10 open source products, but for 10 separate commercial products you'd need 10 NSA employees.
  10. T'hain Esh Kelch macrumors 601

    T'hain Esh Kelch

    Aug 5, 2001
    If you actually think that NSA has the manpower to watch every webcam on the planet, and continously go through what you write to your mom in Word, then you should seek professional help.
  11. lunaoso macrumors 65816


    Sep 22, 2012
    Boston, MA
    You can't find anyone if you don't look at anything. To accomplish their search for terrorists, they need to look at everything to be able to find what they are looking for. Do I agree with their actions? No, not really, but I can see their point of view. I find that looking at both the pros and cons of something like this is necessary.
  12. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    To the OP:
    If you haven't figured it out by now, your questions AREN'T going to be answered in this thread, nor in any other thread on most forums on which you pose them.

    Just take normal and rational steps at securing your data.
    That's about all any of us can do.

    I sense that in the future, the private sector is going to develop some significant countermeasures against government snooping. That remains to be seen.

    By the way, have you checked out the "Epic" browser for Mac?
    If you're concerned about security, you should...
  13. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    And here I thought the original post was a masterly use of language, irony, and parody...
  14. old-wiz macrumors G3

    Mar 26, 2008
    West Suburban Boston Ma
    My advice would be to toss your computer and go back to paper and pencil.
  15. chaosbunny macrumors 68000


    Mar 11, 2005
    down to earth, far away from any clouds
    Why invest billions in the surveillance of everybody to catch terrorists when there are more people dying of bee stings than terrorism attacks every year? And far far far more people dying because of cancer? If the goal is to protect the people, wouldn't these billions be better spent to find a cure for cancer? Catching terrorists is just the excuse. The surveillance and profiling of everybody is actually the main purpose.
  16. sjinsjca macrumors 68020


    Oct 30, 2008
    Highly doubtful.

    It's likely NSA isn't your only enemy or even your main one. Competitors, personal and business rivals, Evil Hotel Maids and other countries (even some who are nominal allies) top most folks' list whether they know it or not. NSA gets the headlines, of course.

    At the top of your priorities should be enabling a screen-lock and FileVault 2. Set up a hot corner that blanks the screen and locks the machine. Never leave your machine unattended, and never leave your computer with its screen unlocked even for a minute... I once left my office for lunch, realized I'd forgotten something, made a U-turn and walked back in, only to find a creepy colleague poking around on my laptop. I got real serious about locking things down that very day! After all, it's not just what he could have gotten off my machine, but what he might have put on it, too.

    Rather than somehow infect your computer with screen-sharing spyware that could be detected and is dependent on an internet connection, it's easier for an inquisitive party to just sit behind you at Starbucks or on an airplane. Or to put a camera in your hotel room. A friend's company was in intense business negotiations in a certain country well-known for its national firewall, and they had a suspicion their discussions and prep meetings were being surveilled and their negotiation points known ahead of time. They swept their hotel rooms as well as they could and ended up putting a camera in one room. Sure enough, the cleaning crew came in and got to work. One "maid" noticed the camera and pointed it out to the other, and asked, "Is that one of ours?"

    Some contend so, but it's hard to separate the serious contentions from the woo-woo tinfoil-hat crowd nowadays. And, so many of today's mainstream headlines seem like they're borrowed from yesterday's kooks... it's probably safest to say there's no absolute safety, but a lot you can do to reduce your cross-section.

    Keep in mind, the more steps you take to hide yourself and your digital doings, the more you're likely to attract attention. NSA reportedly keeps encrypted files acquired from persons of interest indefinitely... and today's super-secure encryption is tomorrow's emerging vulnerability.

    Oh for heavens sake, do you want to make your machine totally nonfunctional?

    If you want a super-secure compute environment, google Liberte Linux and make a LiveCD or LiveUSB stick. Super-secure ...and rather limited, especially if you make it non-persistent (=read-only). Almost as secure is to keep Liberte around as a virtual machine "just in case." Note it does not have a standard email function (though it has browsers you can use for any webmail), but it does provide a very secure "cables" mechanism for getting email-like messages to other Liberte users. Also, Liberte takes a while to connect to its web of Tor-ified hubs, so it's inappropriate for dashing off a quick email or downloading a bunch of emails in a hurry.

    Frankly, if you think you're NSA-worthy to the degree you seem to imagine you are, you probably shouldn't use a computer at all.

    This and the rest of your questions lead me to advise: Calm down. It's unlikely you're "of interest" and if you truly are, anything you do would probably serve to inconvenience rather than block the Bad Guys. And as I noted, if you want to set up a super-secure Linux installation, you can always do so as an adjunct to OS X via the LiveCD / LiveUSB / Virtual Machine approach.

    But there are things you can do, as I've described, to maximize your safety against the many, many other folks who may be curious about your and your business but who enjoy less-than-NSA-class resources. Top among them is to make use of the encryption techniques that are available, and meticulously guard the physical safety of your machine, limiting access to yourself and trusted others. And be careful who you trust: as another non-NSA example, a friend's wife, planning a divorce without his knowledge, hired a private investigator who came in one day when my friend wasn't home and installed a key logger and assorted spyware to get dirt on him.
  17. amg2014 thread starter macrumors member


    Feb 16, 2014
    I'll admit, I've been worrying too much. I'll have to learn to trust my own computer then.
  18. hiddenmarkov macrumors 6502a

    Mar 12, 2014
    As I am prior military I can tell you I have had more than one class, speech, etc. about operational security (opsec). I can also say even your basic social networking sites and such lure service members to bend or break opsec guidelines as social sites have this amazing power to invoke varying levels of carelessness and stupidity.

    The enemy is hoping an idiot has a pic somewhere geotagged by high end semi-permamnent emplaced gear as they are posing for friends and family.

    While I am sure Johnny's mom likes the pic and goes there's my son....some enemy who is too poor to have 1000 satellites covering every inch of the globe daily could be going....hmm, didn't hit this grid sector, lets divert some resources here shall we.

    The NSA is hoping whatever threat is doing the same thing. Unless you have a picture of you with the head of a known terrorist organization raising beer glasses in a pic if monitored is getting circular filed. They want that leader having a massive brainfart and getting his pic with a facebook spammer who posts it seconds after taking it.
  19. phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    It is not paranoid when the gov't already proved they can and do get info from citizens. While I don't worry, other do and they certainly are basing it on present activities going on. Look at Obamacare, part of that is handled by the IRS who too, has abused information and power. What is paranoid about using common sense to realize the gov't does whatever it wants and the public puts up with it for whatever reason.

    While there is a logic to collect everything and sort/list/drill down later, there is no real enforcement or control that renders such data collection as "safe" and secure. When trusted sources such as banks and various businesses lose OUR data to hackers, we have a serious problem. There is no escape from it but we can certainly limit both chance and scope of personal data being lost.

    Just so you know - I am not a Republican (nor a Democrat for that matter) as I am thoroughly disgusted with both parties given their proclivity to put their own well being before the public and the framework of the Constitution.
  20. Zxxv macrumors 68040

    Nov 13, 2011
    If you truly needed that level of privacy you would already know the answers to all the questions you posed. The fact you are asking shows you don't need it. Anyone who does will have been trained and taught.
    Make sense? :)
  21. hiddenmarkov macrumors 6502a

    Mar 12, 2014


    You are having hacker(s) break deep into the NSA network. This would be in a real secure network. not sure if NSA calls it the same, in the Marines this secure network is called SIPR net. It does not see the outside network, its its own little world really. You aren't sql injecting into. You aren't man in the middling it.

    And the data you are worried about is their list of how many people you called and other PII?

    If they have gotten that deep into the NSA network we have bigger issues. Like actual National security shake down from top to bottom as fit has hit the shan. To be honest if motivated I could find a cc number seller (sad thing underground sites do this as easy as selling on e-bay) with your information much easier.

    And this would not have the NSA having a really strong interest in either making me disappear off the face of the earth for quite a while as we had real personal heart to heart talks. Or opting for me to have an accident with fatal consequences if I hit a good enough data vein.

    You are nice or thinking small time. When not if they find these hackers tracks post attack it be in their best interest to have really good data to have whatever country they run to have it worth their while to deal with the political crap storm they will get worth the aggravation. Your personal habits as recorded by the NSA would not be that data. Unless its in the personnel database and you are a NSA employee.

    See if I had in mind to do this....I'd want database info like this. When I haul ass to a country with no extridition I am sure I can grease more wheels telling them every NSA spy in the country than showing them extensive data of your purchases from amazon in the past 3 years.
  22. phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    NSA is accessed by gov't staff. We already see that gov't staff has abused such information on a large scale. We have also seen IRS do beyond suspect investigations and now have access to data collected by Obamacare.

    No disrespect but if you know anything about malicious behaviors with respect to sensitive data you also know that a great majority comes from people within a given entity (company employee hacks as example). The NSA data is no different. From outsiders, find exploits is not a simple binary answer as to whether it can be done or not.

    One need not just consider their own data safety but wholesale lists and reads of data of many at a time. Just to be aware, I take this position readily given my own background as a IS business systems analyst who took the time to really understand risk management.

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