Latest posts by Alvin Bryan (see all)
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We keep hearing advice on how to keep our data private. But it can be hard to keep up when there are so many bits of it. So here is a compilation of what the experts have been saying. You will find tips on home VPNs, private data storage, email services, and more. Information is power, and many companies and governments are hungry for our data. But we don’t have to let them take it. There are steps that every average Internet user can take to keep personal information safe.
The first thing that everyone using the Internet should do is get a home VPN. This can be a personal VPN app or a DSL solution with flashed routers. The main purpose of a home VPN is to protect your Internet traffic. This means that everything you send over the Internet will be sent through a VPN tunnel. The tunnel protects your data from being seen out in the open. Your data will also be encrypted by the home VPN. Data encryption prevents your data from being read in case someone does happen to come across some of it.
As you go through the other solutions, use the home VPN to mask your trail. This makes it harder for anyone to know what changes you are making. This will give you better security because no one will know where to begin looking for your data. Anyone can use a home VPN because it is designed to be easy for anyone to use.
Evaluate the online services that you use. The first of these would be your browser. Many would not forego the conveniences of browsers like Google Chrome. Of course you can use Chrome’s Incognito Mode, but it is still connected to Google. It is better to have a backup browser like Mozilla Firefox. Safari is also considered to be quite secure though Apple’s affiliations have come into question after the Snowden revelations. Firefox has a password manager and proxy settings that help a lot. Cookies are easy to control and has a mixed-content blocking feature. Once you have your alternate browser, be careful of malicious add-ons and update it and clear your browsing history often.
Email should be your next focus as it is another service that many of us use daily. There are several secure email services that guarantee privacy. A few have closed down because of the Snowden revelations. But others like Email Made in Germany have sprung up, inspired by the realized need for better privacy online. These providers may not be as fancy as the popular Gmail and Yahoo Mail, but they do not sell your data to support their services. And be sure to connect to your VPN then open your clean, alternate browser before you create your new email.
After you have signed up for your new and private email address, you can move on. Begin by looking through the list of other online companies that you use. Most of us use Google to search for information. No other search engine can compare. But you can go through other private search engines and still get good results. DuckDuckGo for one takes search data from Google so you can get the same results but first anonymizes your search for your safety.
Make sure you think about all the other website that you use as well. Do they offer HTTPS? Do they really keep your data secure and private? If you must use websites that you are unsure of, always connect to your VPN first, then use a set of alternate credentials if you need to set up accounts. Online shopping is tricky because payment services are not anonymous, not even Bitcoin. You cannot use an alias for payment systems, so make sure you use only the most secure systems and shops.
Make sure you are very careful where you store your data. Many of us have used online storage services like Dropbox and OneDrive. But these services are not secure although they claim to be. They have been known to share data with the government when it is requested, even without a warrant. If you are using one of these services, you need to take back all your data from them. There are a few services that let you hold your own encryption keys. Choose one of these and move your data there if you must use online storage.
If you can store data locally, this is even better. Keep important data on a separate hard drive that you encrypt yourself. Do not store the password on any device and do not leave it connected to any device when you are not using it. The best way to keep it safe it to use it only on a computer that never connects to the Internet at all. When you need to send or receive data, only the needed bits can be transferred through a secure flash drive. Always be aware of what the devices you use are capable of. You may do all of the above only to find that your laptop is leaking data through your operating system or malicious software. In the final analysis, your computer security is still important. Create and use strong passwords that are never stored digitally. And make sure you have good antivirus software and proper firewall settings.