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How do you protect your privacy?
...for privacy and security when accessing the Internet
Virtual Private Networks [VPNs] are the very best solution to securely and privately accessing the internet. Wi-Fi hotspots like airports, hotels and coffee shops are a hacker's dream [and your nightmare]. Check out this video of a hack/vulnerability called Wi-Fi Sniffing [by Men in Grey]. It should scare the heck out of you. Experts think that >75% of identity theft [a $4B problem in the US in 2012] is the result of Wi-Fi Sniffing hacks. VPN tools are software applications that encrypt your Internet traffic thereby ensuring you are secured from Sniffing attacks. But VPNs can also protect your privacy from folks like the NSA and Google/advertisers, [they obfuscate/digitally shred your IP address/identifier and give you a new, anonymous IP address]. In addition, VPNs can give you access to an unfettered Internet when you are traveling in places with censorship, [or your work or school has placed restrictions on your device]. Business travelers often use VPNs to get access to rich media like YouTube, Facebook, Hulu, the BBC and/or Pandora no matter where they are. These are the best:
- AnchorFree has earned more than 200 million people who have installed it's Hotspot Shield [HSS] App. This App works on PCs, Macs, iOS and Android. HSS is a FREE product [ad-supported] and a premium product at $30/year for up-to five devices. Check out this video from Fox Business News interviewing the CEO. HSS also provides data-compression on iOS and Android paying for itself in relatively short-order.
- Norton Hotspot Privacy is a similar tool but does NOT provide Privacy nor data-compression.
- There are numerous other VPNs like Hide-My-Ass and Open VPN, but these tend to only work well with people with superior technical skills.
Be aware that some VPN providers are owned/managed by folks with ulterior motives. The governments of China and Saudi Arabia have created several VPN companies that masquerade as independent companies. Be careful out there. If you aren't certain of the motives, then please stay away.
Secure Messaging applications help you ensure that your communication [text, voice and files] remains safe. Texting [via your cell phone or tablet] is UNSAFE. Many personal email systems are easy hacks/suspect. Voice via cell phone carriers and OTT providers [WhatsApp, Viber and Skype] remain simple exploits for an experienced hacker. So better solutions are available, including:
- Silent Circle is a solid solutions and was founded by the folks that created PGP.
- Wickr is equally robust and was founded by a team with serious credibility in the white-hat hacker community.
- TigerText is the lightest of these solutions, but is HIPAA compatible.
- Our least favorite tool is the wildly popular SnapChat. This is NOT a secure or private App. If you want to use an ephemeral messaging tool, check out Kaboom. Ephemeral media [next big thing IMHO] mimics normal human face-to-face communication in that it disappears after a short amount of time. So you can add a funny picture to Facebook, Twitter or other social media site [and/or file via email], and make the picture disappear without a trace after you set period of time.
Other Cool Tools:
- We love AVG's PrivacyFix and Abine's Do-Not-Track-Me tools. These sites warn you of the privacy risks you face on any given site. Ghostery, Adblocker Plus, and Trackerblock are similar but less-loved tools.
- Password Managers: We think everyone should use a password or identity manager. Everyone. [Yes, you!] We like PasswordBox, Keeper, and LastPass. We don't like OnePass or Siber's RoboForm.
- MaskMe is an interesting tool that allows you to mask your phone, address, email and credit card data while using the web. This is still a beta program but it holds much progress if they get it right.
- All browser extensions or browser add-ons that promise to hide your browsing [Do Not Track] are ineffectual IMHO. Why? Because they rely on Apache web servers that disregard the instructions on many popular browsers. See this Wikipedia article for more details. This is especially true for Microsoft's Internet Explorer, Google's Chrome, and Apple's Safari browsers. Caveat Emptor.