02 Mar 2017

When Donald Trump took office on January 20th, Barack Obama’s presidency was officially over and the country moved on, in very different direction. Will Obama’s legacy be defined by the Affordable Care Act? The Iran nuclear deal? The new openness between Cuba and America? If you asked most Americans right now they might tell you that they’ll remember Obama for what happened between Russia and America under his administration. From the Crimean annexation to Russian meddling in the 2016 election, Russia and Obama have been on a collision course for years. That’s why one of his last major decisions as president was to sanction Russia for state-sponsored hacking in 2016.

But there was one more huge decision Obama made before leaving the White House that you may not have heard about. And if Russia keeps up its hacking program they might be thanking him for years to come.

Just this month, President Obama passed Executive Order 12333. While that may not mean anything to you right away, would you be worried if you knew that it gave the NSA more freedom when it comes to your private information? You should be, because that’s an understatement. Executive Order 12333 gives the NSA the freedom to share the raw data it collects on American citizens with 16 other federal agencies. We’re not just talking about the FBI and the DEA either. Every armed services intelligence branch, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Treasury are just a few of the federal agencies that will have access to everything to NSA collects on Americans.

Here’s the good news, now the NSA will have some help reviewing the data they collect. Here’s the bad news, now 16 federal agencies will have the power to send reports of any criminal acts they find straight to the Department of Justice without any warrants or ever going through a court. Here’s the worse news, instead of your personal information being held by one agency it could be in the hands of several. And that means not only copies of your name, address, and phone number being sent across the country but also being handled by several government employees instead of a few.

And remember those state-sponsored Russian hacks?

Russia has already shown that they’re capable and not afraid of hacking American institutions, and that should worry you since President Obama just passed a bill that will make your private information more accessible. Usually, people say, “Well if you have nothing to hide you shouldn’t be worried” when this type of legislation is discussed. But when other countries can access it, that type of thinking goes out the window.

Is Executive Order 12333 the canary in the coal mine telling you that it’s time to go off the grid? That’s up to you, but no matter what you think there’s no denying that understanding the dangers of cybercrime and knowing what your government is doing about them has ever been more important. President Obama’s intelligence legacy was capped off by Executive Order 12333, and despite his unpredictability, Trump appears to favor similar data collection policies.

If that worries you, the only response isn’t burying your computers and barbecuing your smart phones. Consider exactly what powers the NSA has over your personal data, and if you don’t like what you see find a representative or candidate who thinks like you do. And if they do get your vote follow the decisions they make once they’re in office. Executive Order 12333 wasn’t a huge story according to major media, which means people have no idea that their private information could be accessible to state actors. Don’t let yourself be one of them. Take your cybersecurity seriously.

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