(See our Holiday Special, which is about online security)
Today I wanted to write a different kind of post. It has nothing to do with my usual subjects of drinking water, health and preparedness, but rather I want to talk about one of my recent obsessions; internet privacy and security.
I don’t claim to be an expert in this regard, but I have studied this subject like a fanatic lately and I have learned a lot of things. I want to tell you what I have learned, some tools that I have found, and give you resources for learning more about this issue.
FIRST, let’s talk about why you need to care about internet privacy and security. Basically, the internet is broken. It’s full of holes, and your information is out there. I just learned that my information was compromised by the recent Equifax hack, and your information was probably stolen too (you can check here). I never gave my information to Equifax. I’ve never worked with them, but they had all of my information, including my social security number. Now someone else has my information. Also, just today Yahoo.com revealed that they were hacked and the thieves got away with information from over 3 BILLION accounts.
This happens all the time, and in my opinion it will happen more frequently from now on.
There are some things you can do to protect yourself. I will start with the basics…
COVER YOUR CAMERA. This seems pretty basic but I think it’s probably the first thing you should do, and it only costs $5. See it here.
INTERNET SEARCH: You probably use Google to search the internet right? Well, they keep track of everything you search and everywhere you go online. If you use www.StartPage.com however, you are still getting Google’s search results, but StartPage hides your identity. I never use Google anymore, only StartPage.
USE A VPN: Our fantastic (sarcasm) Congressmen are enacting a new law that gives your Internet Service Provider (Verizon, ATT, Spectrum, Cox, etc) full legal rights to watch everywhere you go online and they can sell this information! Legalized invasion of privacy! But there is a way you can protect yourself and make your computer more secure from hackers; a VPN. A VPN is software that makes your online activities invisible to ISPs and hackers, and it makes your WIFI much more secure. All you have to do is install it, and it works in the background. This is the VPN software that I use.
PASSWORD KEEPER: DO NOT USE THE SAME PASSWORD ON DIFFERENT SITES! The only way to properly manage your passwords is a password management tool. Basically it creates long complicated passwords for each site you need to log into, and then it remembers them for you. All you have to do is remember a single password for your password manager. Another benefit these programs provide is protection from phishing attacks. This page explains the different options.
TWO-FACTOR AUTHENTICATION. Most good online services (such as PayPal) offer two-factor authentication. When you login and enter your password, PayPal will then text you a 6-digit code to your phone that you will also have to enter. If an online service gives you the option for two factor authentication, you should do it.
SYNC.COM INSTEAD OF DROPBOX. I have recently changed from Dropbox to Sync.com for online storage of my files for privacy and security reasons. Sync.com is a “Zero Knowledge” service, which means that even the company and the employees of the company can’t see what is in your folders. Dropbox employees, on the other hand, DO have access to the files that you upload.
ENCRYPTED EMAIL. Email is a completely unsecure way of communicating, yet it’s a vital part of most people’s personal and business lives. You can however get completely encrypted email services, such as ProtonMail.com or StartMail.
PRIVACY.COM. A new service I found for online credit card purchases is privacy.com. This service allows you to create virtual visa cards that you can add money to, like a prepaid Visa card, so when you buy something on line you don’t have to put in your real credit card number.
30-DAY PLAN. There is a LOT more that you can do. Here is a great 30-day plan for getting your online security on track.
I hope you enjoyed this post. I think this is a very important topic, so I encourage you to do more research on this subject. Check out this site and this site (more advanced). If you like podcasts, I recommend you check out the “Complete Privacy and Security Podcast”.
As a final note, I don’t want you to take my word on this subject without you doing your own research. Like I said, I’m not an expert on this subject. I just thought this information would be helpful to you.
Take care and be safe!