All You Need to Know About Protecting Your Digital Privacy
While the desperate battle has shifted from platform to platform across the centuries, protecting the individual’s rights to privacy is a struggle older than the American Revolution. In 1604, the attorney general of England ruled that “A Man’s home is his Castle” and he may take up arms and protect it as such even from the king’s agents.
Fortunately for freedom lovers everywhere, this same abhorrence for imperialist powers was imbued into our country by the Founding Fathers and protects from the unwarranted seizure of personal documents and property of all types.
It is generally understood that freedom can’t truly exist without an inherent right to privacy, simply because a human can neither be considered dignified or intimate without their privacy. In the digital age, this has not been changed at all although it is more difficult. The truth is governments and hackers have the resources and capacity to monitor just about any type of online activity and private communications by anyone using a tablet, laptop or any other type of mobile device with internet access.
President Trump’s strong criticism of encryption technology and desire to see government agencies expand their surveillance smacks of a government imposition we were supposed to be rid of since 1776. This new threat has libertarians and technologists worried.
As an ethical hacker, I have taken it upon myself to warn my fellows of this threat and protect those who are unable or unaware of protecting themselves. It takes a hacker to be able to think up ways to thwart their digital invasions and protect privacy during these turbulent times. Following are some of the pointers my colleagues and myself suggest and some reasons why.
I would like to point out that I have no affiliation with any of the companies below other than the fact that I have used some of these services as a regular paying customer.
PHONE CALLS, TEXT MESSAGING, AND EMAIL
When you are communicating with someone, you undoubtedly want to make sure that only you and your recipient are privy to the information being exchanged, or you would have shouted. In this case, you will want to use an “end-to-end encryption” method that keeps your information as jumbled garble as it is passed through email networks or cellphone company processors. When the message is received at its recipient’s location, it can be decrypted and read.
Phone calls and private text messages should also be protected and for this, I recommend Signal or WhatsApp, which are the best communication tools on the market for every day protected use. These are also protected by end-to-end encryption, although both communicators will need the apps installed on their iOS or Android systems.
For private email, Tutanota and ProtonMail are some of the preferred options in my opinion. These are both very similar to Gmail except they also include end-to-end encryption and only store messages and information in encrypted forms ensuring no one will be able to read them. Of course, if you are sending messages to people outside of these services, there is a good chance your information is not going to be encrypted.
At the moment neither of these channels support encryption by PGP/GPG and this would allow their encryption to extend to other services, but this may be an upcoming upgrade. Both of these services are based in countries where privacy laws are especially high and both can be used across all mobile devices and PCS, and operating systems.
AVOIDING BEING TRACKED
It is not such an easy task to ensure that your online activities are safely behind a curtain of privacy. Internet sites and the ways they work are tricky and often use services from other sites and information gathered from a variety of sources to address user needs. For example, you may be looking at a news site that has the text from one source, embedded videos from another and images from yet another source. Furthermore, it will connect with Facebook and Twitter to allow its readers to share, comment and discuss these stories. Then there are advertisers involve who like to track the time-specific customers will spend on certain sites.
The best way to protect yourself from any unwanted snooping is to use a browser extension that adds functionality to whatever browser you prefer to use. uBlock Origin and Privacy Badger are two of the more effective extensions that I have used and will block sites from monitoring your activities.
ENCRYPTING ALL YOUR ONLINE ACTIVITY
If you want to take your security a step further, you will want to make sure that no one can observe your internet activities. This is where a VPN will come in handy. A VPN can best be described as a system of networks through which your online activities can be hidden.
Instead of registering a direct connection between your computer and the websites you visit, a VPN will hook you up to another computer possibly in another country. This computer will send out a request on your behalf. When the connections are made, all information transferred between you and the site in question will be encrypted ensuring that no one will ever know what you are doing in the privacy of your digital domain. Check out the best mac VPN’s.
Finally, for the most simplistic approach to internet security Freedome by F-Scure will only cost a few dollars a month and offers an incredibly easy to use service that applies to all PCs and mobile devices. There are others out there but as far as ease of use and efficacy this one can’t be beaten.