Privacy software and privacy tools that guarantee online anonymity and protect your location and identity.
- key disclosure law requires Privacy Service Providers to share encryption keys with law enforcement.
- logout when you finish browsing, use a VPN, or alternative search engine.
- Store sensitive data in secure private storage.
- Protect your password and devices
The leaks at Yahoo, Adult Friend Finder, Facebook, and linked-in have taught us one lesson. The importance of privacy. Think about it, would you want your search history, risky comments, online activity, or the websites you visit -to leak in the age of cancel culture? Worst still, some people may use what they have on you for blackmail. The National Crime Agency UK warns that crimes including sextortion may happen at any time and from anywhere on the planet.
These crimes sometimes escalate to suicide, and authorities have little to do because the perpetrator may be from a different country. At the center of scams, identity theft, and other illegal online activities are your finances and identity. Privacy tools or privacy software are protections installed on your computer or other devices to prevent snoops and thieves from breaking in. many people use VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) as the first line of defence. But a VPN will not protect you from yourself.
Your online activities and the information you share impact your privacy. So, it pays to know when to turn on protections and what not to share. You should also know if your privacy service provider shares information with law enforcement and what you can do to keep your activity truly private.
In this article, we discuss privacy tools, and privacy software, in detail, starting with the question, what search engine should I use?
Private search engines versus Google search
Google is the most popular search engine on the planet. However, the search engine has one major privacy flaw. It records your activity. The amount of data Google collects from you is jaw-dropping. They use your devices to record location, collect payment information, search history, YouTube watch history, logged-in devices, browsing data, device, and user ID data, contacts, your content including photos, audio, and video, purchase history, product interaction, and plenty more. To get a small taste of what data they collect you can see a snippet of it at myactivity.google.com.
What separates a snoop from that data is your password and access to your devices. What that means is, if someone has access to any logged-in device, he may see your online activities for the last two years. To protect that data, you must clear your activity on your browser and Google servers. Note that this only prevents someone from accessing your data locally, Google will still be able to access it and use it to advertise to you.
An alternative method is to search incognito. But incognito mode has some flaws. Find out more here.
The purpose of collecting all that information is to target you with ads. To avoid this type of data accumulation, we recommend using search engines that do not store your history or target ads, such as:
- Duck, Duck, Go.
- Start page
We are not saying that you should stop using Google search. What we are saying is, if you do not want search or online activity to go on record, use an alternative.
Store sensitive data and images in private storage
On a logged-in browser -it is easy to access someone else’s Dropbox, Google Drive, Google Docs, and Google images, for example, you may forget to lock your computer or phone at home, school, or work. If someone gains access to that device, they may download your data.
Because of this flaw, we recommend:
- Avoid synchronizing devices that you use for private activity.
- Do not use company-issued devices for personal use. Some employers install software to monitor employee activity.
- Do not use your private email for work.
- Store sensitive data and images in private storage such as MEGA, IDrive, iCloud, or SYNC.COM (making sure you are not automatically logged on)
- If you store sensitive data such as your social security, ID, and legal documents on your Google Account, use two-factor authentication.
Privacy software: The safest file storage options
Currently, the cloud is the safest place to store your files because, unlike physical drives that are prone to damage, files stored in cloud servers are encrypted and safe from workers. To secure your cloud account, we recommend that you use a strong password, turn on two-factor authentication, regularly clear deleted data, and turn on account alerts.
Additionally, you should not save your account password on your browser if you are using a public device. Instead, store your passwords in a secure password manager such as:
- Avast password manager
- Avira password manager
- Robo Form
However, the safest place to store your passwords is in your head or on a piece of paper. To keep yourself from forgetting, you should:
- If you write down the password in a notebook or paper, disguise it and do not write what site or service it unlocks.
- Create a tip sheet. Instead of writing down the password, write clues that only you can decipher.
- Replace some letters or purposefully misspell your passwords.
Virtual private networks and alternative privacy tools
If you use public WI-FI, are on a watchlist, or value online anonymity, you need a VPN. A VPN is a privacy tool that allows you to surf the internet using a virtual IP address. Because of that, your internet service provider, snoops, and companies such as Google cannot track your location or activity.
But remember, VPNs do not offer the same level of security, meaning some are secure and some leak data. Ideally, you want to avoid free VPNs or browser extensions because they do not offer full protection. Therefore, what you should look for in a VPN is:
- The service provider’s experience and background: check unbiased reviews, the vendor’s data policy, if they share data with law enforcement, and any leaks.
- Avoid free VPNs because they are often slow, and some may hijack your browser or sell ads.
- Country of origin: some countries require service providers to store user data. (Scroll to the bottom)
TOR Virtual private network alternative
Installing a VPN may slow down your computer or device. If you notice this error or if you are looking for a safe alternative, we recommend installing the TOR browser.
Tor coupled with Linux (OS) is the ultimate privacy tool. Why?
Tor and Linux mask your identity and location. The browser does not record history, nor does it target ads. The browser offers three levels of security but enabling the higher levels may affect some web page functionalities. However, even the lowest level of protection is still enough to keep your identity and activity safe.
Tor is available on IOS, Android, and windows.
Privacy software: Is using a pirated/cracked Windows 10 safe?
We do not endorse using pirated software, but using a pirated copy of windows has its benefits and risks. What you need to remember is – according to windows central, cyberattacks target mostly pirated systems because they are easier to get into.
The issue is security is dependent on the pirate’s intentions-that is – you may download a copy programmed to send images, passwords, and other information back to the Modder. However, Windows allows you to download a free copy of Windows 10 without a product key. If you have a windows 7 or 8 product key, you may use it on windows 10.
To secure your system we recommend:
- Updating your system regularly.
- Make sure all system protections are turned on.
- Browse the web safely.
- Avoid sites and materials that may contain malware.
How to secure Windows 10
Simple tips to secure Windows 10, these can help, but remember that you are the last line of defense so make sure not to install any suspicious files on your computer.
- Remove or stop bloatware from running in the background.
- Enable antivirus and security system (turn on windows defender).
- Disable automatic login.
- Set a screen saver password.
- Disable remote access.
- Enable auto-updates.
- Back up your files and store important data behind a password.
- Turn on encryption.
- Set up separate user accounts if you are sharing the PC.
The most secure operating systems for PC and mac
- Fedora workstation, Ubuntu, Alpine, Arch, Debian, Nix OS (Linux)
- Qubes OS (Xen).
- Tails and Whonix are TOR-focused Linux Operating systems.
Tip: Windows 10 collects user/behavioural data and uses it to target ads on your start menu. Also, although rare, a pirated copy may send data to hackers.
How to secure Android
- Before downloading apps, read the app’s permission request.
- Review your phone’s or other device default software settings.
- Enable two-step-authentication
- Activate Google’s “Find My Device.”
- Turn on fingerprint unlock or setup screen lock.
- Setup trusted places to keep the phone unlocked in specified locations.
- Turn on trusted face and voice recognition.
- Browse safely.
- Avoid apps that saturate your phone with ads.
Tip: rooting your android device may expose it to malware and snoops.
How to secure IOS
- Use touch or face ID
- Set a strong password
- Turn on find my iPhone.
- Secure your Apple ID.
- Use sign-in with Apple
- Read app permissions before you install.
- Limit the data you share
Tip: jailbreaking your iPhone or other device removes Apple’s threat protection and voids your warranty.
Ultimately, all these tools are useless if you do not use them as intended. Think about it, if you write your password on your desk or stick it on your laptop, anyone may access your device. Also, what you click on, download, and share on social media matters. So, do not share much more than is needed, do not store important documents in public spaces such as Google Docs or Dropbox, know which search engine to use and why, and keep your phone number, and private email address private.
Encryption Key Disclosure Law
It is also worth mentioning that US-based service providers for VPNs, DNS, email, hosting, social media, and cloud storage are required to hand over encryption keys to authorities. What that means is during an investigation, law enforcement may use the Key Disclosure law to force your privacy service provider to share data. The Five Eye Intelligence Gathering Alliance requires service providers to build backdoors to encrypted communications. The countries in the alliance that have key disclosure laws include Russia, India, France, Norway, South Africa, United Kingdom, Antigua and Barbuda, and Ireland.
Countries that do not have Key Disclosure laws include:
- Czech Republic
Overall, your online privacy depends on you. The information you share, the devices you use are all under constant surveillance. So, limit what you share, protect your search history, and use the mentioned privacy tools in the right way because they cannot protect you from yourself.
What privacy and security tools do you have installed on your device, does it work? Share your experiences in the comments.