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When most people think about protecting their privacy online, they probably assume that pasting black sticky tape on their laptop’s camera should suffice. While that’s one of the best things to do to prevent hackers from photographing or perhaps recording you when in unflattering attire, it’s not the only aspect of internet privacy you should worry about. Each day your friendly ISP is logging personal information, while your vulnerable wifi router could already be compromised by that next-door computer whiz who just gets a kick out of copying everything on your hard drive. Then there are those who put up fake websites with all manner of spyware geared towards recording everything from your credit card info to your ex-wife’s email address…but you get the idea!
On the internet being paranoid can be a good thing because it can lead you to try and figure out how best to protect your privacy. Thankfully, we’ve got your work cut out for you, with this ultimate online privacy guide. Depending on how comfortable you are with computers each tip in this guide varies in difficulty so even if you’ve just started to use computers this is still worth checking out.
Use a VPN to cover your online footprint
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is just a fancy way of saying that you can use the internet while remaining invisible to your ISP. That gives your ISP the runaround because they can’t see what you’re accessing since it’s done through an encrypted tunnel. But not only are you invisible to the ISP, but you’re also invisible to hackers. Plus, if you use a foreign VPN, i.e., one that’s not run by a company based in North America then that’s even better because that way they are not legally obliged to keep logs of your browsing history.
The other advantage of using VPNs is that they don’t cost a lot for the service they provide. Plus, they are easy to use which means you don’t need to be a computer nerd to figure things out. Also, you get to choose exactly from where you want to appear using the internet. For instance, if you happen to be in Iran, China or North Korea where 80% of the internet is censored, and you need to watch Netflix for some reason its possible to appear to be accessing Netflix from the US by merely changing your IP address. Though there is a free method to doing the same thing albeit being a little complex.
Using The Tor Browser
The Tor Browser is free to use which is why it has made it to our ultimate guide. It is also pretty darn simple if you don’t want to go beyond just firing it up and browsing. Though performance tends to vary depending on a number of factors.
The Tor Browser works by utilizing a vast network of nodes to route your browsing traffic through. The fact that your information is first encrypted and bounces of various nodes or computers across the world makes it untraceable. Plus, by default, the system sets your IP at random. That’s why it is the tool of choice for whistleblowers and dissidents. Oh, and before we forget its open source and so there are no logs or central servers making your internet activity 100% anonymous.
A proxy is a lot like a VPN except that it does not create an encrypted tunnel like the latter. A proxy is merely another computer or server which serves as your hub and through with your internet traffic is routed. So, when connected to a proxy your computer sends a request to the proxy server, and that server then processes the request and sends it back to you. While there are both paid and free proxies, it’s not the tool of choice for those who are paranoid about their internet security. Plus, using them requires that you dive a little deeper into your computer’s internet settings which is a pretty hairy experience for most people.
Now if you all you want is to hide what you’ve been up to via your web browser then add-ons like uBlock Origin, Disconnect, HTTPS Everywhere, etc. are worth checking out.
As a personal fan of Firefox especially after their latest security patch, one of the add-ons worth considering is ‘Disconnect.’ The add-on covers your tracks by blocking invisible websites that are known to track your movement online and log every website you’ve visited. As a bonus, it also loads websites 44% faster, and if you’re anything like us, then its ability to save 39% of your bandwidth translates to more in-pocket savings.
HTTPS Everywhere is an add-on for both Firefox and Chrome with the goal of obviously protecting your communication between websites. The app works by encrypting the information sent automatically to websites that support it. A nifty little tool worth installing if you hate being bombarded by suspicious websites.
uBlock Origin helps to filter out many unscrupulous websites. So, if you’ve ever noticed gambling or porn pop-ups each time you’re trying to log-into your bank account, then this add-on should remedy the situation. Though it’s only available for Chrome.
Dawn the invisibility cloak with the Brave Browser
The Brave Browser is free to use, open source web browser based on Google’s Chrome and its Blink engine. Now without going into too much head spinning tech jargon, the browser simply removes intrusive advertising and blocks malicious websites. It is available for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. Plus, as an added bonus it has 19 search engines built into it which we are sure you won’t need but its good to have anyway.
Steer clear of Google if you don’t want the NSA spying on your search history
Other Common-Sense Methods to Maintain Your Privacy Online
If you don’t want your husband, nagging wife, or the neighborhood spy stumbling on to what you’ve been doing all day long then make sure to clear your browser history and cookies. Though even better would be is to use the “Private Window” in Firefox or the equivalent in the browser of your choice. Everything you watch, look at and type in this window is not saved anywhere. So, you’re in the clear!
The next time you visit Starbucks to use their free wifi think twice. And if you do happen to use it try incorporating any one of the methods of covering your tracks above. Also, to be extra safe make sure that your laptop’s screen does not face their surveillance camera. You obviously don’t want someone else watching over your shoulders as you type in your credit card information, social security number or email password.