Learn to Secure your Internet Privacy on a Censored Web

What’s up with all the news about online privacy, online scams, and spywares and surveillance programs making rounds in security blogs? Its seem like everybody  is tracking your online activities, starting with Internet service providers, Cell phone companies, government agencies, colleges and probably even your church want to know your whereabouts on the web.

International Corporation like Google, Facebook and Apple, Microsoft, and others all have their databases wiretapped by NSA PRISM program. Others like Verizon wireless and AT&T have admitted using super cookies to track subscribers’ web habits for the purposes targeting advertisements. Rest assured intelligence agencies in your countries are sniffing through your emails and social media chats. Nowadays, even schools are building digital profiles of their students in total disregard of internet privacy concerns.

Well, many will say they have nothing to hide but the truth is we all have something we want to protect form the public. Internet privacy is not about hiding mischievous web activities but having total control of your private information on the web, as simple is that. If you wouldn’t want to have your emails pasted in a billboard next to your house, then you should be very concerned with internet privacy issues making news lately. In this article we give a few tips to help you resolve the Internet privacy issues you may encounter on the web.

Encrypt your hard drive and online communications

Encrypt! Encrypt! Encrypt is the number one advice Edward Snowden gives to web users. Encrypted data is useless to those without the encryption keys, helping secure your private data in case your device is lost or stolen. There are numerous ways to go about it. First, you can use your OS inbuilt encryption tools such as BitLocker for windows 7, 8.0 and 8.1. Mac OS users can go for FileVault 2 encryption tool while Linux based OS have Ubuntu to encrypt their hard drives.

Encrypting your online chats and phone communication gives you an additional layer of internet privacy.  Silent Circle gives a variety of security feature such video and file transfer encryption features to bolster your online privacy. ChatCrypt on the other hand encrypts your instant messages in online services such as Yahoo and Skype. Alternatively, use third party encryption tools such Symantec Endpoint point encryption to resolve your internet privacy issues

Turn on Private Browsing

The idea here is to avoid broadcasting your activities on the web. Majority of websites use cookies to track your clicks while on the sites. These cookies are digital footprints that are connected to tell so much about your browsing habits in order to build your online profiles. Such information is sold to third parties such ad networks for the purpose of targeted ads.

Due to a growing demand for web privacy, Browsers such as Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari now have an inbuilt privacy browsing option that prevents storage of cookies. All you need is to do is turn on private browsing in your browser setting. It’s knows as Incognito mode in Chrome browsers. Read our article on how to configure your browsers to resolve privacy issues for more information on it.

Block Third Party Cookies and Flash Content

While some cookies maybe harmless, others maybe used for data mining purposes to tract your clicks, time spent on sites, which page you visit and other useful data to marketers and data brokers. Worse still this information is shared through cookie sharing rings such as DoubleClick, Adcast, and LinkExchange further compromising your web privacy. In this case you need to control what information is shared to third parties.

Some browsers such as Netscape, have cookie notification options to notify you when a site try to write a cookie on your hard drive and gives you the option to accept or reject the cookie. Configure your browser setting to automatically block all third party cookies from being loaded on your current page. Also check the Do not Track Preference from your browser setting. Alternatively, use a cookie management software such as Junkbuster proxy, Intermute, or Adsubtract.

It’s also important to configure your adobe flash Player to avoid sharing saved cookies with other sites you visit. Go to adobe Security and Privacy setting and uncheck, “Allow third-party Flash content to store data on your computer”. Note, you might need to check this setting on a site-to-site basis because some sites may become inoperable.

Use browser Plugins for Improved privacy

Using third party browser plugins is another brilliant way to resolve internet privacy issues with major browsers such Chrome, Firefox and internet Explorer. Browser plugins are easy to install and will help you resolve all internet privacy issues. Ghostery browser plugin is popular privacy tool available for Chrome, Chrome, Opera, Firefox, Safari, and mobile systems Android, iOS and Firefox Android.

Ghostery helps block third parties, Ad agencies and search engines from tracking your online activities. BetterPrivacy is another great browser plugin worth installing. It works with Firefox browsers and deletes all local shared objects (LSO), when Firefox closes. Self-destructing Cookies automatically delete all the cookies related to a site once the tab closes. Other useful browser plugins include. Adblock plus, Cookie Monster and Secret Agent.

Hide your IP address

You device IP address is more like your social security number on the web. It tells your real geographical location and gives an identity to all your web activities. To protect your internet privacy, you must find a way to obscure you IP address or mask it with a virtual IP address. This is easy using a Virtual Private Network such as HideMyAss VPN or go dark using Tor Network.

HideMyAss VPN gives your device a Virtual IP address and routes your traffic through a VPN server, based in a different geographical location. In this case anyone trying to track will be misled to believe you’re in a different location and will never link your web activities with your real IP address. On the other end The Onion Router obscures your device IP address allowing you to browse the web anonymously.

Keep your Personal information Private

In most cases, we innocently give away incriminating personal information on the web without knowing. Information such as real names, email addresses and phone numbers may be freely broadcasted by your browser to every page you visit. To protect your internet privacy, configure your browser setting (alongside making yourself habitual) to use a Pseudonym instead of your real name. Also never save you email address, phone number or the private information on your browser.

More importantly, avoid giving your personal information to strangers on the web. Decide which part of your personal information is private and keep it off from social networking sites such as Facebook and twitter. You don’t necessarily need to use your real name, home address or other information that can be used in identity theft or phishing scams. Also watch out not to upload photos that capture information such as your car license number, street name or home address. Read our article on how to protect you privacy on social media for more detailed guidelines on the topic.

Learn to identify and Ward off Online Scams

Online phishing scams are common pitfalls where web users loose confidential information to online crooks. For starters, enable spam filtering in your inbox and pay attention to fine detail in email to help identify phishing scams. Most if not all, phishing emails have giveaway points such as grammar deficiencies, Logo design and Senders email address that don’t match those of your service providers.

To protect your internet privacy, avoid clicking embedded links in email from unknown sources. Most of the links direct you to spoofed webpages designed to steal your credentials. If in doubt, manually search the site and log in directly. Secondly, never open or download email attachments from suspicious sources<>. Con artists and spy agencies alike use malware ridden attachment to weaken and penetrate the targets computers. If necessary open attachments in protected view which comes installed by default in many operating systems. Consider reading our article on how to secure email accounts, if you need more detailed info on the topic.

In a nutshell, internet privacy is still possible in highly censured web if you implement the effective tips we’ve highlighted above. More importantly, be updated on internet privacy issues by subscribing to security gladiators mailing list and be web security conscious at all time.

Lawrence Mwangi Lawrence is a technology and business reporter. He has freelanced for a number of tech sites and magazines. He is a web-enthusiast, with a special interest in Online security, Entrepreneurship and Innovation. When not writing about tech he can be found in a Tennis court or on a chess board.
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