Guide : 18 Tips for internet safety and Anonymity

Simple Online Privacy Guide 2

Are you scared that you are being watched or tracked by someone?

Recent news about government snooping, privacy threats, ISP spying, mass surveillance including other online risks can give anybody a troubled sleep. No matter at which corner you are in the world, such security issues will always follow you.

Two significant security-related cases unfolded in the United States, Europe, and Australia:

Corporate surveillance on the rise:

According to reports, in places likes The United States, Australia, and The United Kingdom, it has been observed that ‘Internet Service Providers’ aka ISPs have turned against their customers when it comes to security. ISPs are recording the online activities of their customers and selling them to advertising agencies and third parties.

Stripping away internet privacy protections:

Currently, a lot of effort has been putting on to regulating the internet by rolling back all the regulations. The regulations that emphasize on protecting the privacy of users and keep it open & free for everyone is shortly becoming more controlled. While there are few exceptions, still, the US, UK, and European countries are trying their best to implement stringent regulations over internet usage.

Tackling issues:

While the battle of keeping the internet free and private are going on, you can safeguard your privacy and freedom by implementing necessary solutions. The solutions are so simple that, even a newbie can use them.

Below are some tips and solutions to restore your faith in internet privacy.

Keep yourself Safe with these 18 steps:

internet safety and Anonymity

1. Block your internet from adwa re, trackers, phishers, etc.

To protect your online privacy and security, make sure you get rid of advertisements and trackers. Last year nearly 1.7 billion ads were comprised of threats, as per the report of Google:

Out of those 1.7 billion

  • Approximately 900,000 ads contained malware
  • 112 million ads were “trick to click” which installs dangerous apps and viruses onto your device
  • Ads used for deceiving, misleading and shocking the users were counted up to 80 million

Purpose of dangerous ads:

The advertisements over the internet are a way to track your internet activities, steal your data and to analyze your overall behavior over the internet. These ads infect your devices and try to lure you into buying more things.

Nowadays, ads have become a new way to infiltrate your system and make it vulnerable to tracking and infecting with malware.

Hackers have invented tracker, malware or ransomware that can affect your devices without even clicking on them.

Solutions:

  • Download some browser add-ons
  • Use a VPN service with an ad-blocking feature
  • Use an eBlocker hardwar

a. Browser add-ons:

Using browser add-ons are easy. You can integrate them into your browser and play safe. Some popular browser add-ons for Firefox includes uBlock Origin, canvasBlocker, uMatrix and Privacy Badger.

Cons:

Even though they offer protection against threatening and malicious ads, they make your browser a bit more vulnerable to tracking through browser fingerprinting. Moreover, each browser comes with different add-ons. Therefore, you have to install them as per your browser.

b. VPN Service:

VPN or Virtual private networks along with an integrated filter for tracking and advertisements are a great way for privacy and safety.

Top three VPNs that have ad-blocking built into the applications:

  •    Perfect Privacy
  •    CyberGhost
  •    Private Internet Access

c. eBlocker:

eBlocker is a device which you have to plug-in to your router. No need to install any software or add-ons as eBlocker provides blanket protection to all the associated devices of your router. Integrate your eBlocker with a VPN or TOR network and enjoy complete anonymity over the internet.

2. Stay away from Google

The dark truth about Google:

In simple words, the entire business of Google is based on implementing corporate surveillance upon users. All they do is repackage corporate surveillance into applications that look trendy and feel convenient to use. Using their services means to give all your private information with both hands. They use your data and dominate the online advertisement sector.

3. Use search engines which are private-friendly

All major search engines log your internet activities. To tackle this issue, you need to switch to more privacy-friendly search engines.

Searx: It is recommended for its privacy-friendly features and versatility

DuckDuckGo: step away from Google and use this search engine to stay away from tracking and targeted ads. Laden with numerous useful features, they also have a Zero-sharing policy.

Startpage: Even though your start page is Google, it doesn’t include the tracking feature. So without getting yourself tracked you can still take advantage of Google results.

4. Don’t use free and unsecured email service:

Do you ever read the fine print while signing up for your email service?

As per the rule, your email provider is the lawful owner of every photo, mail, and attachment you send. To add worries to the woes, hacking remains a significant issue in free email service. Even Google, Yahoo, and Icloud are not excluded from hacking. When you use something for free, then it’s you who is the product.

Therefore, without waiting for the worst, it’s better to delete your free email account and opt for a secure email service.

Some Secure email providers

ProtonMail: It is Sweden based company who provides 500mb storage.

OpenMailBox: It is a France based company which provides 1 GB of storage space.

Mailbox.org: A German-based company offering 2 GB storage.

Mailfence: Belgium based company which provides 250 MB free storage and 20GB for pro users.

5. Go for a VPN service from a reliable company

To protect all your devices from trackers and government, use a VPN service without worrying about anything. Opting for a reliable VPN service provide you a superior quality of anonymity on the internet. Tired of blocked content due to geographical restriction? Use a VPN service and unblock any content, be it a news article, website, movie, game, etc.

While selecting the best VPN, you have to consider various factors. Some need VPN for privacy purpose while some need it for torrenting or streaming Kodi.

What makes VPN so different?

VPN serves as the best way to get privacy and security while using the internet. As the number of security threats began to rise, the demand for VPN also began to soar. Currently, an internet user can face copyright infringement issues, information censorship, and other related threats. With such an extreme threat and controlling environment, it became impossible for a user to enjoy personal freedom. A VPN save a user from all the above issues and offer a secure internet experience.

As located in good privacy jurisdictions, these three VPNs provides full privacy and security to a user.

ExpressVPN:  A company from British Virgin Islands providing VPN services at as low as $6.67 with a 49% discount.

Perfect Privacy: A company from Switzerland offering VPN service at €8.95

VPN.ac: Just at $4.80, you can use the VPN service of VPN.ac, a Romania based organization.

FOR A FULL DESCRIPTION OF THE TOP VPN RECOMMENDATIONS, SEE THE BEST VPNS LIST.

6. Secure your electronics and router

If you are renting your router from your Internet Service Provider, then stop doing that

Routers provided by Internet Service Providers mostly comprise of security flaws and are more prone to exploitation. When you connect any devices to the internet, you are giving a chance to the hackers and monitor agencies to exploit your devices. Not only your mobile, smart TV, laptop but even baby monitors are also unsafe from trackers.

In The US, UK, parts of Europe and Australia, it is legal for your Internet Service Provider to track and record all your online activities. Your ISP can sell your browsing history to a stranger or any third party.

How to safeguard your internet activities:

It’s easy, just install a VPN on your router and get yourself secured. Integrating an excellent VPN service with the right type of router is a unique way to tackle the issue.

7. Disable all Home Assistants:

Home assistance services are nothing but a cunning way to track your devices. There are corporate surveillance devices masked as “Convenience.” Some example of Home Assistants – Amazon Echo, Alexa, Google Home, etc.

The risks that you may face when a device collect your private information:

1. Your data can be shared with third parties

  1.    Your data can get hacked and displayed over the internet
  2.    You might be prosecuted for copyright infringement related issues if someone handed over your data to law enforcement agencies
  3.   Your data will be sold to advertisement agencies, and you will end up showering with targeted advertisements.

Recently, Vizio was exposed. According to news, they were spying on millions of customers through their Smart TVs. So rather than becoming a part of the herd, rethink your decision.

8. Protect your smartphones

Sadly, most of the mobile phones are not completely private to you. They have been designed to track your activities without your notice. Many times, this issue has gone public where telecom biggies have accepted of have accepted of infusing tracking libraries into the devices they sell to common people.

There are two common ways of drawing sensitive user data; one is through Third Party Apps and another is by the In-built setting of the devices you use.

Third Party Apps: You never know when your personal day-to-day information gets outsourced to big corporates through the third party apps you use. These tracking apps are also home to many malware, spyware and other viruses. So, it’s better to delete them as soon as possible.

Default setting: These are the in-built settings you can’t get rid of. Irrespective your permission, these setting functionalities will send your private data to third parties.

On the other hand, if you want to go anonymous about your online activity, consider encrypting your device with a secure VPN connection. The process will be different for Android and iPhone devices though.  In this regard, the Blackphone manufactured by Silent Circle seems to be more secure as it has been built with privacy-friendly settings.

9. Avoid the Privacy Disaster-Windows 10

Windows 10 has been called-off by many corporate giants for the sake of goodness. Here are few issues that made the Windows 10 getting tagged as “Privacy Disaster”

  • Do you know, through Windows 10, Microsoft has a knowledge about all of your passwords? Not only that, it also knows about your browsing history, has access to all your emails, calls, contacts and even info about your relationships too.
  • It is irrespective of your permission, third parties will be having all access to your personal information.
  • As Windows 10 comes with an unique advertising tracking ID, marketing agencies can easily come to know about your tastes and your notification messages will be Ads of similar genre.
  • Unlike it previous versions, here the synchronization is automatic and that means, all kinds of confidential data starting from browsing history to network connections get automatically stored with Microsoft for future analysis.
  • If you have activated Cortana, then it can suck your private information to any level starting from Keystrokes, searches, to calendar data, and music. It can also know about your purchases, credit card information, phone conversations, microphone input and many more.

Though your internet search may suggest you many articles on how to make Windows 10 more secure and user-friendly, it’s better to not get into trouble; simply, do not install Windows 10 at all.

Rather, Linux can be your better companion as it comes with an OS that is free and is way much better than Windows 10 in terms privacy concerns.

10. Know how to defeat browser fingerprint:

Nowadays, you can’t just hide your online activities by installing a VPN. The methodologies have been improved from the other side to outsmart your every move and one of such initiative is browser fingerprint. Once you go for it, the system comes to know about your Plugins, add-ons, language input, cookies, Fonts etc. Not only that, it can also know about the platform you are using, WebGL, screen resolutions and time zone.

Worst part is that, this technology has got more accuracy when it comes to collect exact privacy information. The accuracy is directly proportional to the number of browser add-ons and extensions you have been using lately. If you want to know how accurate your browser fingerprint is, take help of these websites;

In case, you want to get out of these trouble, try using Tor Browser with Tor being disabled. Let’s discuss that in a bit detail.

11. Tor Browser with Tor disabled

Lately, many industry insiders have been suggesting using Tor network. Tor, otherwise known as The Onion Router marked its entry in the year 2002 and has been growing under the umbrella of US government since then. However, it has some drawbacks of its own. Instances are there where it has been compromised and even attained a broken stage. One of the major drawback is that, it responds too slow, you will get a daily working speed varying between 1-4 Mbps.

However, as compared to other browser fingerprint enabled options, Tor gives you the assurance of way higher privacy security when used with Tor disabled. You can say, its an upgraded version of Mozilla Firefox having an improved security add-ons. Here are the top 3 benefits of using this;

  • The default protect settings are strong enough to guard you against any unwanted browser fingerprinting feature.
  • You can get into an user community full of other Tor users.
  • Integrate a VPN service and it will become even more secure.

Steps to use this one;

  • You need to download Tor browser first (Download as per your OS).
  • Now can you see three lines at the top left corner? Click that one and you will get an option saying “Preferences”, select that one.
  • Then under Advance setting go to Network and select the one that says Settings.
  • Under No Proxy, select OK.
  • Now simply type the following into the URL bar “about:config” and press enter
  • In the search box type “network.proxy.socks_remote_dns”  and double click on it to disabled. In case, you want to completely disable it, follow the next instruction.
  • In the search bar, type “extensions.torlauncher.start_tor” and then double click on it. It will completely disable the Tor Network.

The whole till-now discussed points will have no meaning unless you disable your IP address and Geolocation. For that, you need to integrate your Tor network with a good VPN service. You will get a complete protection against browser fingerprinting.

12. Delete your apps

You will be surprised that some apps which provide privacy are also found to contain tracking libraries, malware, and other privacy-related issues. Apps that claim to deliver anonymous VPN services are bad when it comes to privacy. Even though Google and Apple are doing their best to remove these apps from their stores, it’s still hard to differentiate a good app from bad.

The only answer to this problem is to delete your apps.

Below are some apps that known to create a privacy-related issue:

  •    Apps that provide Free VPN services (see VPN Warning List for many examples)
  •    All social media apps such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.
  •    Games such as Words with friends, Angry birds, etc.
  •    Weather Apps such as GO weather.
  •    Transportation provider apps that track your location such as UBER, Lyft, etc.
  •    All Chat, messenger and photo apps like WhatsApp, Snapchat, QQ, etc. g.    Photo editing and drawing apps

It’s better to remove them quickly before they steal your data and mess up with your device.

13. Be polyonymous:

To maintain your overall privacy, it is better to create a different persona and live a polyonymous life.

  •    Authentic Profile:

Start with your genuine persona. Create a LinkedIn profile and keep it clean. As LinkedIn is associated with your career, it’s better to keep it original. You can use your real name, assign your official email id and keep it career oriented.

  •    Semi-Private persona:

In social media accounts, you may use your nickname or even a pseudonym. Keep it more social life oriented. No need to mention anything about your career in your social media accounts. Also, use a different email id to link it to your social media.

  •    Your full private persona:

Apart from creating a separate email address, use a completely unrelated name. Whether you use that persona for dating or to interact in public forums for debates, don’t ever link them to your other emails. It’s better not to add your real-life friends, pictures, interests or anything that could tie back to you. Using separate hardware or device would be even better.

Using social media during office hours is not appreciated by employers, and it’s better not to give them a chance to raise a finger on you. Being Polyonymous will safeguard you from stalkers and abstain someone from tracking your online history.

14. Controlling Social media footprint

It might take years, but people have started seeing the bigger picture behind social media. Social media is abusing your privacy, implementing surveillance, tracking and monitoring your every behavior since years. While offering you a little user value, they are getting a lot in return. Social Media over the years have manifest itself as the best resource to steal your data, tracking your activities and spying on you.

Even though the best alternative would be to delete your social media account especially Facebook but people who want to keep their accounts can use other methods to improve their privacy:

  •    De-index: De-index all your social media accounts from search engines
  •    Delete: Always delete all your unwanted private pictures, locations, posts, etc. from Social Media.
  •    Limit:Don’t display everything to everyone. Never post anything which is visible to the whole world.

Note: After you upload something in social media, you can’t undo everything. Social media store some pictures of you in their facial recognition databases.

So if you still believe Facebook is pious, then read the privacy article by Facebook in detail.

15. Use secure messaging and calling services

For years, government agencies and corporation have been reading your texts and listening to our calls. Shocked? Therefore, it’s better to use some alternatives to WhatsApp and other unsecured apps. For messaging and calling without getting traced, you can use apps like “signal” and Threema.” As “Signal” is an open source, it is more preferable.

16. Stay updated

Update your apps as soon as possible. Hackers often target outdated applications.  Regular updates safeguard your vulnerabilities from being hacked and tracked.

17. Use antivirus and Internet security software

You can also use antivirus and internet security apps to safeguard your devices. While paid apps are beneficial, there are also some free apps that offer same quality services as paid ones.Avast is one of the best free antivirus software available for Windows, Mac, and Android. For windows, using the default window defender would be the best choice.

18. Avoid being online always:

Till the time, you are online, tracking is an easy task for the third party applications. That’s why, just log out of all your accounts once your work is over. It means, logging out of all section such as email, YouTube, Facebook and any other applications like these.

Add another layer to your private security by using an email application instead of using browser. The application will synchronise all your mails and will show up on the desktop instead of requiring you to login separately from separate browser tabs.

In this regard; two best applications would be Thunderbird and PostBox. The former one is an application form Mozilla whereas the second is equally popular for blocking images and other embedded tracking files, thanks to its “anti-tracking feature”. Usually, you never come to know how much unwanted company email signatures and logos come as attached with every single mail but these applications will let you know that easily.

Also, keep a habit of clearing your browser history after you finish your session. Unwanted parties can track you easily from your browsing history. As stated before, you can get rid of easily by using Tor Browser (with Tor disabled). It makes sure no history remains everytime you finish browsing.

Things to keep in mind:

As you have reached to the end of the discussion, you must be feeling confident with the level of information you have grasped already. Though these steps seem big and complex but they are not so. You can start with small baby steps and then can gradually proceed towards making a grand lift towards upgrading your privacy to another level.

Start doing the following 5 things now!

  • Protect your system from unwanted hackers and third party application by simply taking the help of an trusted VPN service provider.
  • Delete all those unnecessary applications from your mobile.
  • Switch your practice of using web service to application service for checking emails (You can use Mailfence that gives 500 mb of storage capacity)
  • Guard your social media accounts.
  • Once you are done with your business, immediately log out from everything.

Here is the complete checklist:

In case, you missed out anything, here is the complete list that you should check for an easy an quick understand;

  1. In order to protect yourself fully from Block ads, malware, adware, trackers, phishing, go for a VPN service having ad/malware blocking or opt for an eBlocker device.
  2. Never ever use the service of Google, you will be subjected to higher risk of data insecurity.
  3. Go for safer search engines like  Searx, StartPage or DuckDuckGo those do not monitor your data on constant basis.
  4. Instead of using Gmail which is free and unsecured email, go for Mailfence.
  5. Use a good VPN service (just like Express VPN that comes with 30-days of money back guarantee)
  6. Secure your router and and all other electronics.
  7. Neve go for “home assistance”, they curb your privacy
  8. Protect your mobile devices from security threats
  9. Never use Windows 10, instead, go for the other versions (7 or 8). Else, you can go for Linux.
  10. Do not go for the option “browser fingerprint”. The best solutions would be to go for Tor browser with Tor being disabled.
  11. To keep your device safe from unwanted threats delete as many applications as possible from your  mobile.
  12. Complement your online life and guard your social media as much as possible. Get yourself out from as many social medias as possible.
  13. Use secure messaging applications like Signal and Threema.
  14. Keep your software update and run a good antivirus software.
  15. Log out of every applications after the use.

Endnotes:

If you take a broad look, you will find how online privacy has been subjected to unwanted security threat everywhere. Online freedom are getting subjected to censorship, and content restrictions from all around the globe.

But good thing is that you have no need to get into troubles and even no need to wait for help from outside. Just do it yourself and you will stay safe!

A Complete gamer and a Tech Geek. Brings out all her thoughts and love in writing blogs on IOT, software, technology etc