Obviously we want cyber terrorists, paedophiles and online bullies to be stopped. But for the rest of us, personal privacy is a right. The online world has many advantages, but has become hijacked by hackers, pop-ups, people trying to sell you everything on earth, and search engines or email providers finding out who you are, in order to sell you the world and his wife. In this post, we’ll look at how to stop all of it! It’s possible to surf online without ads or intrusions, not let people know who you are or where you are, do what you need to do – then turn off and go outside in nature!
Switch to an Anonymous Browser
Tor Browser is designed to protect you from tracking, surveillance and censorship. It’s so good, that some countries block its use. It also blocks plugins like Flash, RealPlayer and QuickTime (that can be manipulated into revealing your IP address). This non-profit was created by techy nerds (including a researcher in applied cryptography – we don’t know what that means, but it sounds clever!) They simply believe that surfing the internet should be private, and without censorship.
Free to download, the browser isolates each site you visit, so third-party trackers and ads can’t follow you, then automatically clears cookies. It also prevents anyone watching your connection or monitoring browsing habits. This is a human right to not let people track your movements, if you are innocently surfing the web. The companies that do this are not tracking dodgy surfers, but rather trying to learn habits, so they can annoy you with ads to sell you stuff you don’t want or need.
Brave is another good browser, which is three times faster than Google chrome, protects you from big tech. It takes 60 seconds to switch (you can import bookmarks, extensions and saved passwords).
Install a VPN
You can’t be totally anonymous online, that’s a myth (that’s kind of a good thing, otherwise the police could not find fraudsters etc). But using a VPN is a good idea to help surf the web privately, especially important if you live in shared accommodation and use someone else’s router.
The basic versions of Urban VPN and Windscribe are free to use, or upgrade if you work online for more bandwidth. If you find it blocks a site you need for work, then contact them or temporarily switch to the free verson of Urban VPN, which should do the trick.
When you download and activate a VPN, your real IP is replaced with an anonymous one from their servers. You can check it’s working by visiting an IP address site, it should show something different to your own IP (for Windscribe, click the icon on the bottom of your screen, then click the button to ensure it turns green, then you’re protected).
Switch to Secure (free) Email
You can set up a new private email address with Tutanota or Lavabit (free or upgrade for more bells and whistles). Never click spam mail (not even ‘unsubscribe buttons’, or this will verify you as a real person).
For instant messaging, switch to (encrypted) Signal. For business websites, use a plugin (like Jetpack) to add a form. This way people can’t see your email address online, only if you send other people mail.
Keep Your Laptop Secure
You can visit a laptop shop to restore computers to factory settings. Or just save what you need on cloud storage, then type ‘network reset’ in the search bar (bottom left of Windows) and enable, then in a few minutes your site will reset and restart, removing any bugs and nasties. Keep Windows updated, this will keep it safer from viruses, and also speed up your computer.
If you have lots of passwords, you can store them at LastPass. Used by millions, it gives top security and a safe place to recover them, should you lose the originals.
Need to Verify By Phone?
Some accounts make you verify by phone. If you don’t want to give out your number, there are only two ways around this. Either go elsewhere (don’t use Twitter?) or buy a cheap pay-as-you-go-phone to use just for that purpose. This stops your number be sold onto others, for marketing purposes.
Another reason why this is not a good idea is that it could be dangerous for some people. Twitter requires phone verification, but if you forget to check the right boxes to disallow it, others typing in your phone number will bring up your Twitter account. This could have serious repercussions for people say escaping from domestic abuse or in witness protection programs.