Take Back Your Online Privacy Today!

Your online privacy is at stake; Protect yourself. While there are many more services and tools that you can use to do just that, this list should get you started and point you in the right direction. More tools are available at www.practicesafebrowsing.org.

You may or may not realize your privacy is at risk. Every time you connect to the internet, use your phone or check your email, somebody or something is watching, recording and analyzing your every move. It should be no surprise that this would be common knowledge after the Snowden Leak, however I am still baffled by the amount of people I talk to who are completely unaware of what’s going on.

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about then I recommend watching Citizenfour, a documentary by Laura Poitras about the Snowden Leak and also reading “Data and Goliath” by Bruce Schneier. Citizenfour will open your eyes to government surveillance while Bruce Schneier’s book demonstrates the vast amount of data collected by your favorite internet companies and services like Facebook and Google. The Guardian also has a very informative and interactive site where you can learn more about government surveillance.

It’s crucial that we protect ourselves and our privacy. To do this, not only must we educate others on mass surveillance but how to combat against it. Here are some recommended tools to stay safe online that you can start using today:

Tor Browser & Messenger

The Tor Project is a non-profit and volunteer driven community that develops tools to help you defend against network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy. They’ve developed revolutionary software such as Tor Browser and their newly released Tor Messenger. Their software is completely open-sourced and trusted by journalists, activists, media, military and anyone who wants to keep their information private and safe.

When you use the Tor Browser to surf the web or Tor Messenger to talk to friends, it hides your real location and encrypts your connection by sending it through a distributed network of relays that are hosted by volunteers around the world. They have a fantastic explanation and diagram here.

VPN or Virtual Private Network

While Tor is a great solution for bouncing your web browser traffic through multiple locations, it doesn’t necessarily do this for all communication on your computer. If you want to encrypt and route all internet traffic going to and from your computer, you will need to use a VPN. It’s easy to set up on your computer and mobile devices and will protect you from adversaries, especially on open wifi networks.

This is important because if you’re using the internet at your local Starbucks or any other open wifi hotspots, anyone else on that same network could potentially sniff the wireless traffic and monitor what you and other users are doing. If unencrypted traffic was sent through the network, an malicious actor could not only read the information but also modify it with malicious intent. This is why encryption and using a VPN is crucial as it will protect you from threats.

There are many VPN services out there, however two that stand out are F-Secure Freedome and Private Internet Access.

Browser Plugins

It’s important to use safety and privacy oriented plugins with your browser:

  • Adblock Plus blocks all sorts of ads and pop-ups, will notify you of known malware hosting websites and disables third-party tracking cookies and scripts.
  • Disconnect blocks tracking cookies and scripts, offers secure wifi encryption tools and has a private search feature.
  • HTTPS Everywhere was developed by the Electronic Frontier Foundationand tries to connect to websites with a secure https connection, as long as there is one.
  • Privacy Badger was also developed by the EFF that blocks non-consensual trackers, scripts and ads.

DuckDuckGo Search Engine

Did you know that when you use Google to search the web, they record your search query, date and time, IP address and your cookie ID that uniquely identifies you? This aggregated data builds a profile of you, which can lead to skewed search results and targeted ads.

DuckDuckGo is an extremely popular search engine that doesn’t track you, collect or share any personal information. Welcome to your new search engine.

ProtonMail Email

Most of the popular email services out there are a huge invasion of privacy *cough Gmail cough* as they track and analyze every message that comes across their servers. However, there’s a new email service called ProtonMail that’s built with privacy in mind and they are based in Switzerland. It’s easy to use, offers email encryption, and doesn’t log IP addresses or meta data. There’s no need to worry about target ads or having your emails monitored either. Let’s not forget that Switzerland is out of the US and EU jurisdiction and has some of the strongest privacy laws in the world.

SpiderOak Cloud Storage

Cloud storage is convenient, especially when you want to access files from multiple devices. SpiderOak is an excellent solution to your cloud storage needs and their system has zero-knowledge of your data. They boast that their system encrypts your files and does not store plaintext, keys, or meta data on their servers. They also offer mobile apps so you can manage your files directly on your phone.

Mobile Apps

Your mobile phone leaks more data about you than you know. Stay safe with these popular apps:

  • Signal is an app for iOS and Android that let’s you securely send and receive text messages, phone calls and video calls.
  • ChatSecure by The Guardian Project has released an open-source and free chat messaging program for iOS and Android.
  • VPN’s are important, as they encrypt and route all traffic across another computer. See point 2 above for VPN services.