In the beginner’s guide to online privacy, I provided an introduction to the basic tools that you need to implement to protect your privacy online. This second article will move beyond those steps to intermediate tools for online data privacy. You will use all of the steps in the first guide along with those included in the intermediate guide to online data privacy. It is important that you secure your online data privacy given the recent Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal that found Facebook was even tracking non users’ data. This intermediate guide to online data privacy will allow you to feel more comfortable online while protecting your information from big data and data collection.
An Intermediate Guide to Online Data Privacy
SMS text messages are very insecure and are able to be read by someone with the right knowledge. Your standard social media messaging apps are equally insecure or possibly even more insecure, depending on the app and the company’s policies. In addition to messaging, your phone can also be tapped and listened to by someone, an organization, or a government to listen to your conversations. What solutions do you have when privacy and security are not the main concern of organizations and governments?
For messaging, the simplest solution is to use Signal that you can find in your phone’s app store. Signal uses end-to-end encryption. Messages can be scheduled to disappear so that there is no trace of them on your device. You can still communicate in group chats, texts, voice, video, documents, and pictures without paying for each sms or mms message. Signal is also free! Why are you still using your standard messaging app when Signal is free and has built in security and privacy tool?
The most popular email providers (Google, Yahoo, Outlook, GMZ, etc) do not take your privacy or security seriously. You should switch your email providers to one that actually cares about your security and privacy. Protonmail is the best choice due Switzerland’s privacy laws and because Protonmail provides end-to-end encryption, zero access to your data, fully encrypted data server, full anonymity, self-destructing messages, and SSL connections. That simply means that Protonmail does not read, have access to, or give your data to third-parties. You can begin your switch today by signing up for Protonmail.
There are three steps that you will need to follow to switch from your current email provider over to Protonmail. First, forward all of your emails or the ones that you want to keep from your old email provider over to Protonmail. Second, update any website subscriptions that you have from your old email address to your new Protonmail address. Third, this process will require some time before everything that was associated with your old email address is with your new Protonmail email address. Fourth, after everything has successfully be transferred from your old email address to Protonomail, you can delete your former email address.
Mobile Operating Systems
If you are only going to use a stock phone as it is off the shelf without making custom modifications to your phone, Apple devices are generally more secure. However, if you will be customizing your phone and adding or modifying security features beyond what mobile phones provide out of the box, Android phones are more secure. If you want to make those changes yourself on an Android phone it does require some tech knowledge and tech savviness, but it is not high level. Those steps for improving the security and privacy of your Android phone will be discussed in the advanced online data privacy guide.
You will want to get into the habit of clean and wipe your storage on your phone. This also applies to your computer. Freeing up storage on your phone and computer will not only give you more space, it will also remove applications and programs that are using permissions that track where you go or save your private information in those programs. Clean your computer and mobile devices and only use the programs and applications that you actually use.
Encryption is important because it adds a level of security to your computer, mobile device, and programs that you want to remain secure. Encryption creates a secure key that prevents your data from getting into the wrong hands while improving the security of the device. BitLocker is the standard encryption tool for Windows. File Locker is the standard for Apple. There are also a range of encryption tools that you can find to encrypt your mobile device in your device’s application store. Encryption is a useful tool that you should implement that adds an extra layer of security while improving your privacy on your devices.
You should not use any type of biometric identification for verification since these can be worked around by people who know how to manipulate the technology. Your passwords should be at least fifteen characters long and include letters, numbers, symbols, and changed every three months. You should have different passwords for all of your accounts, devices, tablets, and computers. Along with having a strong password, you should use dual authentication where a code is sent to your mobile phone or another email address to verify that it is actually you who is trying to access one of your accounts.
Google Chrome and Chromium browsers are not good choices when it comes to online data privacy. These browsers are known to gather and track your data and make it available to first and third-parties. Firefox is the simple choice since it is the best mainstream privacy oriented search engine. Be sure to add Privacy Badger which is a tracker blocker, uBlock Origin which is an ad blocker, and HTTPS Everywhere to make sure you only visit HTTPS websites are added to your Firefox browser as extensions. In addition to using Firefox and using these extension, be sure to disable Flash and Java from being able to run on your browser.
Make sure that you have changed your router’s default password to a unique password that follows the password rules above. Be sure to hide your route’s SSID so that your router cannot be found and is not visible to your neighbors. You will have to manually enter the name of your router for it to appear on your devices to connect to the network. This will also add an extra layer of privacy for any wardrivers who are looking to steal bandwidth or hack your network.
You have now moved on from the beginner to the intermediate level of online data privacy. It is important to be security and privacy minded in the Information Age where your data is available online and there are cyber attacks each day. Stay secure singles and readers online.